Greco Roman

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I promised pictures of the garments that I made for people going to the Pennsic War. Here they are, minus some faces.

First up, though nearly last-made, is a fighter’s tunic, meant to go over armor and keep the more plastic bits of the armor from showing to the assembled crowd. Simply a large rectangular bloc of fabric, adorned with strips of trim, hemmed, and a neck T-hole cut through the middle. Should work fine over the armor, and only a few hours’ work. There was enough fabric left that we could probably make something small out of it, a few bags perhaps, possibly some other things. We’ll see.  The neck-hole is a T-shaped slot lined with more of this pale brown trim. I did the machine stitching with a paler purple-red color that the fighter can pass off as “the last thread from our house in Carthage before the sack of the city at the end of the Third Punic War.”

It’s good to have a story.

The second things I’m showing off, but the first made, was a Roman senatorial toga, two broad purple stripes of a different cloth than the main body of the white toga. This was for a different client.  Underneath the toga is a tunica cerulea, a sky-blue tunic.  AT the time of the fitting of the garment, I hadn’t yet hemmed the neckline.  Both garments are essentially linen.  Both should be very, very nice after a few washings.

The footwear needs some work, of course.  But that’s how these things usually go.

In essence, this toga is a sari.  It’s the width of the fabric, selvedge edge to selvedge edge, hemmed on all four sides, with the purple ends attached as a result of two folds in the fabric to make a broad double-seam in the middle.  Saris are woven completely from end to end, so this isn’t a sari. But in terms of length, it seems about the same.  In terms of width, it seems about the same.  And it’s a pretty plausible re-construction of a toga, as near as I can tell.  Which makes more sense than some of the other constructions I’ve seen, that appear to require looms dozens of yards wide.
I don’t know if the third garment is historical or not, but it’s basically a wraparound skirt or short kilt with a strip of trim on three sides.  Wrap it around you, left over right, belt at the waist, fold the upper part over the belt, voila! Working clothes on a hot day when you feel like being shirtless.  It seemed the best use for a broad strip of fabric left over from a chiton, at least for the guy whose fabric it was.

So… those are some of the projects I’ve worked on and finished this weekend and early week.  I wonder what’s next?

In the meantime, back to quilting.



I had a couple of video interviews this past week for jobs. It’s hard to tell sometimes if you’re being invited to express a free opinion as a consultant, or if you’re being considered for an actually-open position. No matter. You have to dress the part. That means putting on a tie, and something serious.img_3108

Like a pinstriped business apron.  My mother had the idea several months ago, when she pointed out that in the 1800s, before the factory floor did away with them, that serious-minded artisans and master makers often wore ties to show their professionalism (and their membership in various trade organizations, too), and aprons over their work apparel. Part of it was that the economic and political revolutions of the 1800s had made work clothes and business clothes more or less synonymous.  Everyone wore more or less the same designs of shirts, jackets, coats — the industrialization of the printing of patterns affected all of the classes together (chances are, most armchair historians have never thought about the way that women on the frontier had to make their own patterns, and not just their own dresses; or that they were stuck with the styles of clothes they’d brought with them. Have you ever made a pattern from an existing piece of clothing? I have — it’s relatively easy; and some of it boils down to taking a worn garment apart quite carefully, tracing the shapes of the pieces onto paper or even directly onto new fabric, and then cutting and assembling carefully. Before the advent of photography, think about the level of commitment and care and memory this required!

img_3110No matter… I have the Internet.  I must have looked at dozens of apron designs before selecting mine.  I made a pattern, figured out the fabric I wanted to use —  bright jewel-tone blue for the backing, and some serious gray pinstripes for the front.  I figured this was a good way to show off my interest in color theory, and to demonstrate a commitment to good artisanry.

Any good business costume should have a pocket close to the heart.  I put my businesslike apron’s fabric to work by cutting a square of fabric out, and applying it counter to the pattern, with horizontal stripes contrasting against the vertical stripes of the pinstripes.  This pocket was the hardest to make, and taught me a great deal about making dedicated pockets for pens, pencils and bone folders (a bookbinding tool), which always seem to go missing at the worst possible moment during a project.

The waist pockets were less specifically dedicated to particular tools.  I wanted them large enough to let my hands go in them easily, and I wound up setting up eight pockets in the waist of various sizes. Some are large enough, and deep enough, for a pair of full-size fabric scissors; others will only hold a bobbin, if I’m changing thread colors often.  Here you can see the jewel tones of the back side of the apron.img_3118

Once the pockets are attached, it’s time to zipper-stitch lickety-split the back and front together, neck strap and waist ties inside, right sides together. The result, an apron — a sort-of three-dimensional garment assembled out of essentially flat materials like fabric.  Turn the work, poke out the corners, press… voila. An apron.

It’s funny. I think about the number of times that former students complained about getting sawdust on their nice clothes, or having oil or grease from a tool or from a project on their hands.  How nice it would have been to have a place to wash it, to smear it, to remove it; or to remove the sweat from your hands when you’re sawing a board or planing a chair leg, or carving a stamp for leather or paper.  I should have had the students make aprons. They could have personalized and kept them, or made them in general purpose ways for the use of the students that came after them.  They’re an important part of a workshop’s culture, and they have a place and purpose in them — not a noble and glorious purpose, so to speak, but a proper place in the world, nonetheless.

Because there is something important about dressing the part you intend to play in the world — and not simply looking the part, but playing the part, and being the part.  If you’re going to be a Maker, or more than that, an artisan, it’s beneficial to know your tools well enough that you can use them to make yourself look good… you know, like a professional in pinstripes.


The jacket 

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This was an awesome jacket.
I saw a kid in my regular coffee house wearing this jacket the other day.  He was wearing this customized leather biker jacket, tricked out like the biker jackets of the punk scene in the late 1970s and 1980s. It had been painted in turquoise, white and maroon paint and adorned with layered rows of metal studs. All the work had been done by hand.

By him.

I call him a kid, but let’s face it, some of those bottle caps are beer caps. He’s probably in his early 20s. I hope.

I asked him if I could photograph some of the detail work. I think he thought I was going to take a picture of him in his jacket, so he put it on. In retrospect I wish I had — but I feel uncomfortable about photographing strangers.

Even strangers wearing clothes they made. Or at least customized.
Still, I was impressed. it was a lot of work, 10 or 20 hours of labor customizing this jacket.

I think that we tend to underestimate the importance of customization in Maker work. But we live in a world absolutely overflowing with cheap manufactured goods. (This jacket, frankly, is not as well made as my jacket from the 1990’s… which isn’t as well made as my girlfriend’s from the 1980s, and definitely isn’t as good as my dad’s leather naval bomber jacket from the 1960s.)

We might disapprove of the message this kid is sending to the world, wearing a studded leather jacket. Or maybe we approve: I certainly do. But rather than purchasing such a jacket pre-made for some fashion line, this kid correctly recognized that there was a DIY ethic at work. He did the work himself. He customized an off the rack leather jacket to express his self-identity to the world.

And maybe we should encourage that in our students more — not because we want everyone walking around in studded leather jackets, but because we would like  people to be able to express their creativity and their hope for a more individualized world, even in off-the-shelf components.



Suppose it’s the case that you’re going to a dress-up party tonight for Halloween season, and you’re playing a pirate.

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But you don’t have a hat.  And it’s becoming an issue that you don’t have a hat to go with the rest of your costume.  You need a hat.
How do you solve that problem?

Well, you could go to a Halloween Spirit store, and buy one.  But the chances are pretty good that whatever hat you find isn’t going to be as good as the rest of your costume.  You have a shirt that was professionally made, and a pirate coat-thing you made yourself, and a pair of pants, and a pair of boots, that are all wonderfully pirate-like… But you don’t have a hat, and any sort of hat you buy elsewhere is going to be cruddy or crummy or expensive.  What do you do?

You look through your collection of spells sewing patterns.  You find the hat pattern that’s part of Butterick 3072.  And you make one in a few hours.

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Bend the wire cleverly hidden in the brim…

It’s not a particularly difficult pattern. I did mess up a little bit on the inside, of course; the red lining is supposed to be attached in a slightly different order than I actually did it, and the result is a lining that isn’t quite as clean or clever as I’d like. But this is not a durable, heavy-duty hat for the rain — it’s a costume piece. And like any costume piece, it’s a relatively simple pattern that can be modified and adapted — a wider brim, a stiffer interior hat-band, a pointier crown… none of these things are impossible to add or modify from the original pattern.

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Tricorne hat!

There’s some debate about which coat to wear it with. I think it’s a better match for the “poet’s coat” I finished up recently that goes with this bag that I had to repair; my girlfriend thinks its a better match for the Scarlet Doublet.

No matter.  I can build a hat.  And if I can sew a hat, there’s a pretty good chance that I can sew anything at all.

There is, if you will, an underlying logic.  Further up in this post, I crossed out the word ‘spell’ because I think there’s a relevance here.  The average pattern in a pattern package that you buy from the fabric store is a set of guidelines; there are recommended fabrics, trim, and  materials — but those are essentially guidelines.  Those patterns have a grammar, if you will, of language to help you understand what it is that you’re doing. There’s an underlying order and methodology; alter the methodology, and you alter the results; stick with the methodology, and you’ll get exactly what the pattern-maker intended for you to get.  But each time you go through this process — each time you make a hat or a coat or a cheese or a tool chest or a book or a bookshelf — you’ll discover that you have a new set of tools for solving problems and building and creating things: food, clothing, furniture, even houses.   This touches on what I said to Will Richardson — that a school’s purpose is to teach measurement, in part so that the questions of what to make, and how to make it, become easier and simpler as we grow older. 

That teaching, that knowledge of how, is never undone.  It stays with us forever, this side of dementia or death.  The underlying thought processes remain eternal, and grow deeper with each project completed.  Even if the first hat is slightly too small… you know how to make it again.

Sewing: Tudor Doublet

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Sewing Muslins I’ve had the pieces for this project cut out for months. It’s a Simplicity pattern for a Tudor-style doublet or pour point.  I finally got a chance to be at home today, and assemble the muslin pieces into a completed garment.  No lining, no trim, no fancy bits — just the basic outline of the garment.

I don’t like it. More

31DoM: Clothing


I thought long about what to do for the 31 Days of Magic challenge today.  I’ve been trying really hard to concentrate on things that I made. But while I’ve made my own robe, and the grade sashes for my membership in the DOGD, I didn’t really have the need to consecrate those.  They’ve already been charged by using them, which Jason recommends in his Strategic Sorcery class anyway.

31 days of magic: beltClothing, and cloth in general, is not a great material for magic. It wears out easily; stains and discoloration. Cotton, the “fabric of our lives” as the advertisements would have it, is not particularly susceptible to magical manipulation.

But silk and leather and linen are pretty good to work with.  And wool is excellent (although it works better as a material for braid and knitted materials than as clothing).  Accordingly, I decided to charge my belt, and my ties.  These are everyday wear; pretty much all the professional guys I know wear both every day (or suspenders… maybe I should charge up my suspenders? I have a couple of a pretty nice pairs of them…)

In this challenge I was hoping to make everything myself, but I didn’t have that luxury today.  I wound up being focused on other things, and planning an article of clothing — especially one which is intended to be magical — as a Maker activity is actually much more complicated than you might think.  You need a pattern, you need to cut out the pattern parts, and then you need to assemble them.  And then, quite honestly, you need to curse your own stupidity, disassemble the parts, and reassemble them correctly.  And then you need to really curse and shout, because you’ve now assembled them the right-way-round… but out of order, and now other parts won’t fit together.  Oops.  So I didn’t do that.

But a belt? A belt is something I wear every day.  I have one of those waists that tends to spill out over my belt loops if I’m not paying attention to what I put in my mouth.  And I tend to wear my belt always on the two outermost holes.

So I asked it to help me.  I asked it to help me notice what I put in my mouth, and I asked it to help me get to a place, safely and carefully, where I could put it on the two innermost holes of my belt.

Some of my readers may be thinking, “You’re talking to inanimate objects.  You’ve gone off the deep end on this one.”  But hear me out on this one — we all have lots of stuff, don’t we?  And we all have a tendency to overeat.  You can’t count on a person to help you not-overeat; they’re doing it too.  You have to count on yourself.

And on your belt.  It’s going to be honest with you in a way that most people won’t ever be.  So why not give it a name? Why not treat it as a caring partner in the relationship between you and your belly?

31 days of magic: ties I wear a tie pretty much every day.  At this point, I wear a purple tie on Mondays in honor of the Moon, a red tie on Tuesdays in honor of Mars, an orange tie on Wednesday in honor of Mercury, a blue tie (this is one of several, actually), in honor of Jupiter on Thursdays, and a green one on Fridays in honor of Venus.  Saturn rarely gets his black tie worn on Saturdays, nor the Sun on Sundays his yellow tie.  But they’re part of the magic that I weave for myself on a daily basis.  It’s about making magic part of who you are, rather than what you do.

But more than wearing colored ties for the planets and their powers, I treat each of them as if it were a connection to a specific kind of power, a specific kind of awareness that I need as a Maker.  The Moon, in traditional cosmology, is said to give finished shape and foundation to all things, and to weave individual beings into a state of interrelationship.  This tie reminds me to help others, and to ask for help.

Mars’s tie is there to help me remember to say no.  I can’t do everything, and I shouldn’t try.  The horses are there to remind me to run away if people are insistent, and to start kicking if they get too insistent.  I don’t say no often enough … but Mars’s power is to help me keep focused on what matters to me.

Mercury’s power is multivalenced: communication and knowledge and research and prototyping.  He reminds me to go to the library, to look up what’s been done before, to ask questions, to draft something before I have to present the final project, to consult the prior knowledge of the human species — to go to the ancestors.  Chances are, whether it’s about electricity or programming or chemistry or cooking, it’s somewhere in the archive, and I can learn how others have done it.

Jupiter’s jovial power (for me) is visualization.  Chances are pretty good that if I can draw it, I can build it.  If I can imagine it, I can Make it.  He reminds me to practice writing and drawing regularly, and to draw far more than I Make.  Jupiter also reminds me to decide.  I can’t get hung up on too many details, or have too many projects going at once.  I have to select one, and move on with it, and come to some decisions about what I will do and how I’ll spend my time.

Saturday’s tie is there to remind me (however infrequently I wear it) to set limits and boundaries on my work for other people. Sometimes time in for myself.  This tie always seems a little too tight, a little too restrictive.  But I’m almost always putting it on, for an occasion I don’t really want to do.  This is a reminder that life is in part for me, and for my own Work in the world, and not just for other people.  From a Maker’s perspective, it’s a reminder that I want to build and make things… and that means putting limits and boundaries on my life about what I will and won’t do.

Sunday’s yellow-golden tie is a reminder that  life is beautiful.  It reminds me to ask the question “What next?” Sometimes it’s a new project.  Sometimes its moving ahead on an old project. Sometimes it’s going to the hardware store or the art supply store or the metaphysics shop.  Every project has steps, procedures, that must be fulfilled. Sunday reminds me to think through next steps, to plan ahead, to notice what needs doing before it needs to be done.

And so my ties serve me, too.  Every day I think about steps and courses of action, guided by color and by the leash around my neck… the noose I tie in place myself.

Make Summer Camp: Red Tunic


This is a report on one of my Make Summer Camp projects, a red tunic for costume play.  

No, I have no idea what I’m going to use it for. Mostly it was to practice making clothing, which is difficult for me—I oftenRed tunic start a sewing project, cut half the pieces, and then have to stop for six or eight weeks. And picking the project back up is challenging.

As you look at these photographs, please pretend that I’m not wearing those hideous swim trunks, those awful flip-flops, and that terrible green shirt.  It was a work at home day.  And I didn’t think to change for the photographs.

This tunic is based on the Simplicity pattern that came out at the same time as the second three Star Wars movies: #5480.  I had to make some adjustments for the fact that I didn’t have enough fabric for the sleeves, which I made short-sleeved; and for the fact that I didn’t have enough fabric for a matching belt.  My lady says that I have terrible taste when selecting colors, although the fabric itself is nice enough; it’s got some interesting weight to it, and hangs with some linen grace although it’s cotton.

Because of the inability to make a belt for this tunic, which I also had to scale up because I’m XXL not XL, I put a hook and eye on the inside left, to catch the fold-over on the front; and I also added some straps on the side, on the right hip, to tie the tunic shut with some flair.

I did gt Red tunicOr maybe it’s just a convenience of peasantry— this kind of thing appears often enough in yeoman garments from medieval times, all over Asia and in eastern Europe, though in the British Isles you’re more likely to see pull-over tunics and smocks. There’s room for trim to be added to this someday, if I want. For now, it feels finished.

From a critical point of view, there’s a few issues.  One, the fabric is very red.  This isn’t a typical color for an all-over garment for a man in our culture or society.  I wanted something for doing fire-related work in an elemental system; I also wanted to something that could be layered over other things, and that was reasonably summery.  But again, it’s a costume piece, not a serious garment.  When I look at the inside, for example, I see a lot of exposed seams that are unfinished and not closed up.  I need to learn to use a serger/overlock machine to learn how to fix some of this kind of stuff.  

I also think the hems are somewhat uneven, as are the bias strips that form the edging of the collar/strip across the front edges of the jacket.  There’s some potential, when making this again (in a more subdued hue, I promise!) of using some bright fabric or trim from the inkle loom along the edges.  This is certainly common enough in Viking-style clothing that I’ve seen in reconstructions and at SCA events.Red tunic

When the tunic is tied shut, the tunic covers shoulders and upper arms to elbows, and then past the waist to mid-upper thigh.  I couldn’t wear it without other clothes, but it makes an interesting addition to the wardrobe. Although, again, it’s really part of a costume wardrobe and not a serious garment on its own.

Although the fabric is garish, my lady and I feel that the cut of this garment is reasonably flattering to me and to my shape.  It could be longer or a little shorter and still work on me; it could be finished with an alternate color around both the hem and along the collar and still work; it could have longer sleeves, either with or without buttons and still work; it could be made of a heavier fabric, or lined in some way, and it would still work.  When I got a chance to wear it during my retreat-pilgrimage, it was admired to some degree, although people correctly recognized that it was still beginner work in some ways.

And yet.  And yet it’s the case that I made this, myself.  As with other things I’ve made, I did this one better than the last one that I made to the same pattern, because I have a better sense of what mistakes I’m likely to make, and I know to avoid them.  More experience, with more kinds of fabric, working toward the same pattern, teaches me important skills about both tools and materials that I cannot learn from reading a book.  So overall, I’d have to say that this was a successful Maker effort, largely completed on July 4, 2015.

I find it pleasing that I found a way to step toward a special kind of independence, by making a piece of clothing for myself, on my country’s independence day.

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