Saturday, August 16, 2014

Restarting this blog

OK, it's been a long while now. While the hunt for full-time employment continues, I try to keep up with my SCA life as well as I can with my limited means. I haven't been doing much Lithuanian research lately, but I have been attending events when I can and trying to make myself useful to the Barony of Storvik.

For example, this past January my Barony hosted Atlantia's Kingdom Twelfth Night, a very Big Deal in SCA circles. We held it at the Shriners' temple in Washington, D.C., which inspired the event's Ottoman theme. Some of my friends and I made brand-new late-period Ottoman garb specifically for this event -- I was literally working on it at 1 a.m. the morning thereof! Plus, I organized the heraldic consult table. So, even though it was the first completely Metro-accessible event in our Kingdom in many years, I couldn't really take Metrorail, because I was lugging 50 or 60 pounds of stuff -- books, musical instruments, refreshments for heralds, etc. Plus I was wearing clothing that looked vaguely Middle Eastern and I would have been getting off the train a few blocks from the White House. On top of everything, the skies gave us cold winter rain all day. Nevertheless, it was a lovely event.

I recently returned from spending a week or so at Pennsic 43, and, now that I have mostly finished unpacking and doing laundry, I have concluded that I really should be chronicling everything I do for the SCA, not just research and crafts related to Lithuania. Don't worry, I'm not giving up my Baltic studies, but many times I find something interesting and enjoyable to do that falls within the purview of the SCA but does not pertain to Lithuania. I really ought to record that stuff for posterity, too, until some greater pattern emerges.

So, to start with, here is a link to some photos depicting the construction of my Ottoman outfit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/34356022@N03/sets/72157639457065966/. A few of the photos at the end of the album depict me as I was trying to convert the coat pattern into a vest pattern, so that I could make a sleeveless, unlined vest with the remainder of the fabric I used for the outer layer of the coat. I'll post more of the details some other time.

And here are my photos from the event itself: https://www.flickr.com/photos/34356022@N03/sets/72157639717114533/. I'm in the very last picture (apologies for the blurriness; we were trying to avoid flash).

At this most recent Pennsic, I was extremely cautious with my spending and I didn't want to take a class in something that would make me run out and buy all sorts of expensive supplies. However, I did take a class on how to make a St. Birgitta's cap. The cost was just a few dollars for the linen and the handout, and I did most of the hand-stitching at Pennsic and finished it up at home. I will try to write about that very soon in a separate entry.

I'll just close this one off with a couple of images. Here is a selfie of me at Pennsic on August 6, halfway through War Week. (I'm wearing a kerchief, not the St. Birgitta's cap.)


Finally -- just so I can have some Lithuanian content in this entry -- here is a portrait of my cat trying to look learned. :-)


Friday, October 25, 2013

My excuse this time...

OK, here is what happened between this blog post and the last one. (Some of it, anyway.)

The second weekend in May was the annual Lithuanian Festival in Catonsville, Maryland, but it was also full of other demands on my time. My dance group was supposed to perform at the Maryland Faerie Festival, quite a bit north of Catonsville, and a couple of friends of mine were moving their stuff from one apartment to another in Hyattsville, near Maryland's border with the District of Columbia. As things worked out, the dance group agreed to perform on Sunday, so I figured that I could go to the Lithuanian Festival on Saturday -- getting out the door earlier than I normally do -- and then see if my friends needed any help when I got back.

As always, I had a great time at the Lithuanian Festival. Someone had brought in his collection of Lithuanian beer cans, and I was amused to see that some of the brands were named in honor of the great victory at the Battle of Zalgiris:
I really enjoyed the tasty potato pancakes fried up as a fundraiser for Malunas, the Baltimore-based Lithuanian dance group.
And finally this year someone was actually doing a marguciai demonstration and selling basic egg-decorating supplies:
When I got home, I called my friends, whom I met in the SCA as Pedro and Devora, and asked them if they still needed help. Pedro answered the phone and said that they were all done moving stuff for the day, but he thanked me for my offer of help just the same.

It was the last time I ever spoke to him.

The following Thursday, Pedro had a massive hemorrhagic stroke. He had brain surgery to try to relieve the pressure on his brain, but to no avail. He passed away on Memorial Day at the age of 42.

I had met Pedro and Devora at my very first SCA event. Later he became my heraldry teacher; I looked up to him as if I was his protege, even though he never became a Pelican (he was the protege of Master Herveus, one of the SCA's top heralds). Still later, as his interests shifted toward his old love of amateur astronomy, he joined my science-writing group and we were once both on the same "trivia night" winning team -- our intellectual strengths and weaknesses complemented each other brilliantly (I didn't know which vegetable symbolized Wales; he didn't know which rock group had Paul Hewson for a lead singer).

Losing Pedro, and knowing that Devora had lost the love of her life, was like a giant punch to the gut in an otherwise good time of my life: I had been working a temporary job at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and cranking out freelance articles on the side. The loss has been hanging over me ever since, whether I'm practicing my heraldry, looking up at the night sky, or catching one of Devora's Facebook posts.

I didn't go to Pennsic War this year, not because of a lack of money, but by a time squeeze -- since Pennsic started earlier than usual, it overlapped the "crunch time" at the end of my Smithsonian contract. I missed Pennsic terribly, of course, but as we say in the SCA, real life always comes first.

So, now that the weather is getting cooler again, I'm trying to get back into the groove. Storvik has a new Baron and Baroness who have a lot of ideas for things to do. The Kingdom of Atlantia's Twelfth Night will take place in Storvik next January, which also happens to be the 10th anniversary of my first-ever SCA event. Anniversaries tend to make me pause and take stock of where I've been and, more importantly, where I still want to go. I may make some posts on this topic in the near future.

In the meantime, I know where I'm going this weekend: to the next Slavic University, again in the Kingdom of Aethelmearc. Woo-hoo!

Finally, congratulations to Lithuania for its election to one of the non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. And for the second half of 2013, Lithuania holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Lithuania is truly coming of age as a 21st-century nation!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Long time no post (AGAIN)

Wow ... yeah ... it HAS been a long time.

Now, I certainly haven't abandoned the SCA. I've been to a number of events and have continued to serve my Barony as a herald. But I've been focusing, by necessity, on trying to find gainful employment.

Still, I was happy to see that Wikipedia featured the article on the history of Lithuania from 1219 to 1295 in honor of today's independence/statehood day in Lithuania. Technically, today's holiday has nothing to do with the 13th century -- it's the "Day of Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania" dating from 1918. Modern Lithuania has two other statehood holidays -- the "Day of Restitution of Independence of Lithuania" on March 11 (commemorating its departure from the Soviet Union in 1990) and "Statehood Day" on July 6 (the anniversary of the crowning of Mindaugas in 1253, which actually did happen in the 13th century).

I still haven't given up my thought of teaching a class focusing on Lithuanian women (or, more broadly, Baltic women). It's just that, right now, economic survival comes first.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Post-Pennsic Post

Yeah, I like alliteration. :-)

I spent last week at Pennsic 41 (the second half of the event). Of course I had a fabulous time despite the periodic bursts of wind and rain. My "modern" canvas tent, which may be as much as 35 years old, held up like a champ.

The Slavic Interest Group (SIG) meeting is always one of the highlights of Pennsic for me. Some of my SIG friends were missing -- either they didn't get to War or they were off doing something else -- but it was a pleasure to chat with newer folks, and a happy surprise to find out that one or two of them remembered my past classes on Lithuania. We shared snacks and booze (*smile*) and left with tentative plans to have another Slavic University in central Pennsylvania, perhaps sometime next year.

I also took an afternoon class on basic inkle weaving and even bought myself a small inkle loom. I really want to practice good, consistent weaving with constant tension. Also, I suspect that an inkle loom will be the perfect platform for me to practice the kind of pick-up weaving that I see in Lithuanian woven bands. However, I've got to learn the basics thoroughly first.

Finally -- and this has nothing to do with Pennsic -- back in July there was a Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in Boston. Wow, I would have loved to attend it, at least as a spectator. I want to peruse the website more, but I'm just posting it here as a placeholder now. So many interests, so little time....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Garb Thoughts for a Midsummer Day

(Author's note: I started writing this on Sunday, June 24, but didn't get around to finishing it. With the big storm and power outages that canceled the June 30 SCA event in my barony, things got kind of crazy. So here is the article as I started to write it ... if that makes any sense.)

As I noted three years ago, today is Lithuania's Midsummer Day, also called Rasos, Kupolės or Joninės. The weather has been heating up around here, but I spent most of today indoors at an Italian Renaissance gown workshop hosted by Mistress Jeanmaire du Doremy. She is a Laurel primari
ly for late-period clothing, and by "late period," I mean the 16th century.

A couple of blog posts ago, I mentioned that I'm not all that great at making garb. Seriously, the clothing I've made since joining the SCA in 2004 amounts to a couple of chemises, a T-tunic dress, a shorter tunic for wearing over a skirt or pants, a woolen half-circle cloak, a liripipe hood (which I keep misplacing), a couple of veils, and a whole bunch of "bog dresses" or simple cotton chitons. This simple stuff is great for Pennsic. I'm not sorry I made any of it. But if I want to make some authentically Lithuanian (or Polish-Lithuanian) garb, I have two routes: the early-period stuff, with precious little pictorial evidence, or the late-period stuff, where there are at least a few paintings, such as Lucas Cranach the Younger's depiction of the Jagiellon family.

Mistress Jeanmaire's class focused on a particular dress worn in a 16th-century portrait, a print of which hangs on her wall at home. She has already made a gown for herself based on this portrait, and she wore it at the most recent Kingdom Twelfth Night. She explained in detail how to make the four layers: chemise (you must have a chemise specific to this dress), corset, underskirt, and the gown itself. We took each other's measurements and traced out customized corset patterns (after trying on the existing corset). At the end of the afternoon, we agreed to have another meeting in late September, well after Pennsic, when we can show off what we've done so far and continue working on our outfits.

Update on July 6: Since the class, I've dug out my copy of Tarp Rytu Ir Vakaru and looked at the illustrations other than the Cranach portraits. The book has one or two other late-period depiction of women wearing dresses that seem to be more like "Italian Renn" fashions than Saxon gowns. I really ought to bring this book, and the little other evidence I have, to the next gathering with Mistress Jeanmaire and ask her about this. If it turns out that Italy was as much of an influence on Lithuanian fashion in the 1500s and 1600s as the "German" regions (because of Bona Sforza and other "intermarriages" among noble families), that will make my "what to wear" conundrum much easier to resolve.
Link

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy Lithuanian Independence Day!

Remember, Lithuania is the country that has two "independence days": one in February to commemorate its 1918 independence from Russia and one in March to celebrate its 1990 break with the Soviet Union. So tonight I actually had some pierogies for dinner. Not the world's best pierogies, but still tasty.

And once again, to my dear readers, my apologies for not writing in this blog for so long. (By now, you're tired of reading THAT, right?) I actually did compile a list of A&S activities to write about ... and then I misplaced the list. Why, yes, I am disorganized.

I've been busy, but a friend and I planned to make this weekend (the one that's just ending) into a "project weekend." He has been wanting to make himself a steampunk costume, and I have been wanting to finish a light-blue linen tunic dress that I started last July (before my automotive transmission disaster).

Specifically, my friend wants to make a double-breasted vest from a commercial pattern, and in the past he's worked off of muslin patterns, not the printed-paper ones. So I transferred the pattern to muslin and added in the seam allowances, which aren't printed on these newfangled multi-size costume patterns. I also added a bit of length on the bottom because he's a tall guy. He was happy with how the muslin mockup fit him, so this afternoon he ironed his real fabric and cut out the pieces from the "real" fabric.

Then I dug out the pieces for the light-blue dress and sewed some of it before the threads jammed up near the bobbin of my machine. I think my friend and I can fix it, but we'll take another look at it in the daylight tomorrow. But then I have to get back to "real" work....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So many arts and crafts, so little time...

Since I have so many things that I do in the SCA -- plus things that I want to do, plus some that I used to do -- I thought I'd list them all. This list is in no particular order, and it will include activities that I did once or twice. At least I will have this as a reference if anyone asks.

Costuming/sewing. This is probably the most fundamental A&S activity within the SCA, as Corpora (our Society-wide governing document) specifies that the only requirement to attend an SCA event is "an attempt at pre-17th-century clothing." (Well, that and a few bucks.)

Granted, many perfectly good SCAdians, even some Peers, don't make their costumes. Either they have a family member or close friend make them, or they buy them from a merchant, or they barter something else for clothing. Or a combination thereof. Still, unless your body perfectly matches a standard clothing size and/or you have a huge pot of disposable income, eventually you need to apply needle and thread to cloth.

Still, I find garb sewing to be a time-consuming and somewhat tedious task. Maybe my feeling has to do with my late mother's enthusiasm for sewing clothes for herself and for me (at least until she got into her late 60s or maybe age 70 -- I can't recall exactly when she stopped sewing). The construction of a garment, at least in my view, is not something that you can do for a short while, then put down and pick up again later. If you're using a sewing machine, you are using a rather large tool tethered to a table and an electrical outlet, and if you're hand-stitching, the garment is still usually too large to lug around on public transportation. Remember how I wrote back on July 15 that I was making myself a light blue linen dress? Well, I still haven't finished that dress. At the 30th-Year event I wore another light blue dress, but that one was of indeterminate fiber content, and it was something I'd bought for $2 and then stashed away for several years before digging it out of storage.

I've also heard (or read somewhere online, can't remember exactly where, though) that, in order to be considered for a Peerage (any Peerage) someday, you really ought to wear something with more thought in it than a T-tunic. Good point. Most of us are visual people, and first impressions count. It was one thing to be new in the Society and to have the need to build up a simple wardrobe that could take me through Pennsic and a few other events. Now, if I want to be taken seriously as a Lithuanian lady persona, perhaps it's time to start dressing like one. (If only the clothing evidence weren't so sketchy....)

I am starting to make a list of sewing projects I'd like to do, but since this entry is supposed to be an overview of my status with all the various A&S activities, I think I'd better move on.

Instrumental music. Besides the Lithuanian studies, this is probably what I'm best known for among the SCA A&S activities. (Indeed, it's what I got the Storvik Order of the Owl for.) I am certainly not professional/Laurel caliber in this area, but I can keep a beat on a drum or tambourine, and I have learned how to play some simple dance tunes on a soprano recorder. I've come to realize that my bowed psaltery is not any more period than a 20th-century guitar, but I still enjoy playing what I call a "rhythmic harmony" on it. See, I don't think that the bowed psaltery (or BP) is well suited for the quick, intricate tunes of bransles, English country dances and some other dances -- or at least I have trouble playing those notes as fast as required -- the bow catches on the upper pegs. Thank goodness I've got enough knowledge of chords to be able to fill in with harmonious notes (most of the time).

To be continued, of course....

Friday, September 30, 2011

Late summer and fall activities

Once again: long time, no post...

Perhaps it's a good thing that I didn't plan on teaching any classes at Pennsic XL this summer, as my car broke down while I was traveling up to Cooper's Lake. Since everyone I knew was already at War, and since I didn't have enough money for a rental vehicle, I ended up missing Pennsic entirely. :-( It's only thanks to the grace and kindness of a group of my friends, who collected some money for me and presented it to me, that I was able to afford the expensive repair bill and get my 15-year-old Pontiac back on the road.

At least I was able to attend the Kingdom of Atlantia's 30th-anniversary celebration earlier this month. For one of the gift baskets that were presented to the winners of the various competitions, I made a small pincushion embellished with a cross-stitch replica of the Atlantian ensign (the kingdom's arms without the crown and laurel wreath). Here's how it came out before I attached it to the pincushion:

It had a few flaws that I'm not proud of -- especially the slightly different shades of blue and white. I hope the recipient, whoever he/she is, overlooks those details and enjoys the overall picture.

Anyhow ... I am getting ready for the next University of Atlantia session, which is tomorrow (Saturday, October 1) in the Barony of Bright Hills. I will be teaching a one-hour class called "Survey of Medieval Lithuania" at 3:30 p.m. I have only two student pre-registered for the class, but I suspect that I'll get more attendees, because I also suspect that a lot of people haven't pre-registered for anything.

I'm also trying one extremely non-medieval innovation: PowerPoint slides. I wouldn't ever try a slide show at Pennsic, because the inside of the A&S tents doesn't get very dark in the daytime (and the insides of the red and yellow tents make lousy screens). However, I am hoping to show even more images and maps than in previous iterations of the class.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A battle well fought

Today I got a nice message from one of my fellow Atlantian heralds. The subject line said, "From my German family to your Lithuanian one..." And in the message he wrote: "Congratulations on a battle well fought." Yes, today is the 601st (601th?) anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, and after last year, I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. :-)

This month is rather quiet on the SCA front, mostly because people in this region are gearing up for Pennsic XL. I'm slowly working on a simple short-sleeved tunic dress. It's not the most authentic, but I've had the light blue linen in my stash for seven years and it's about time I used it on something. I figure that I can wear it on those really hot, muggy days and look somewhat better than I do in a chiton or "bog dress." I plan to trim the sleeves with the "Spike" (Kingdom populace badge) ribbon that Baroness Janina gave me a few years back, and I should have a new outfit for Atlantian 30-Year.

I also am about to start working on a small cross-stitch project for the prize baskets at the 30-Year event. I'm doing a small ensign based on this design, and I'll probably make it into a pincushion or belt favor. I'm embroidering the ensign rather than "Spike" (a unicornate seahorse) to honor Mistress Moira Maureen ua Seamus of the Green Hills, first Triton Principal Herald, who designed the arms of Atlantia when it was forming as a Principality of the East. Mistress Moira is in a nursing home, last I heard, but I want people to know of the role she played in the Kingdom we enjoy today.

One final note: I'm not teaching at Pennsic this year, but I am considering teaching "Survey of Medieval Lithuania" at Fall University, unless something comes up to conflict with that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Curses, in period

A few years back, the Barony of Dun Carraig held an event -- I can't remember which one now -- at which the populace was given actual medieval curses (translated into English if necessary) on slips of paper, in case we wanted to use them. I grabbed some extras, and I found them recently while cleaning. Just for fun, I thought I would share them with my readers.

Methink'st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee. (from Macbeth)

Kerling! (Translation from Old Norse: "Old hag!")

Hang, beg, starve, die in the streets. (from Romeo and Juliet)

Mewling, notty-pated hedgepig! (Elizabethan)

Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon! (from The Life of Timon of Athens)

A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, uncapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy... (from The Merchant of Venice)

These curses are certainly not directed at my readers. I love my readers! I just aim to give people a thing or two to say when they get angry, besides today's modern F-word.

Of course, if you've got more period curses to add, please comment!