Lady Brigid’s Wardrobe – An update

A few months ago, I let everyone know that I’d decided to finally replace the old court gown that I’d sewn back in 2004 for my last renaissance festival as an undergraduate at GVSU.  After spending a few months distracted by a dollhouse (that’s another story!) and working on a few other projects (including surprises for my fellow alumni — more to come on that as I continue to tweak things), I’ve turned my attention to getting things done with my court gown.

A few weeks ago, I finished off my new Spanish farthingale and decided that maybe I didn’t really want to make a new corset, since my old one was perfectly serviceable–it just needed another set of ties.  Over the course of intervening weekends, I cut out a muslin from extra denim for the bodice and sleeves of my new court gown and was pleased to find that my calculations were good and the muslin fit pretty perfectly on the first shot.  Last weekend, I cut out the velvet for the bodice and the upper sleeves, then spent some time sewing the lining and the shell of the bodice together.  Yesterday, I cut the lower sleeves and the sleeve contrast and decided to just finish off the bodice completely.

I started cutting sleeves and working on putting the sleeves together and finishing off the bodice around the time the Spartans kicked off against the Oregon Ducks.

I finished around 1AM, with various breaks (my mother and I were, of course, watching the football game, I needed to get my old Kenmore sewing machine to power through layers of velveteen and denim when my Brother decided that it was too many layers, etc.).

I’ll hopefully finish off the rest of the gown today.  Pictures to come!

Lady Brigid’s Wardrobe – A new court gown

Well, some of you may have seen this tweet of mine, announcing that I’m embarking on a new, somewhat daunting project–a new court gown to be completed in time for Grand Valley’s 20th annual renaissance faire this fall.  I was one of the original members of the duchess’s court at Grand Valley fifteen years ago and it only seems fitting to me (and to other alumni as well!) that my Irish-born countess returns to celebrate the twentieth year of the festival.  Of course, this means I need a new gown.

Blue satin Tudor gown, c. 2004

About eleven years ago, I completed my first Tudor, a blue and green one with cream undersleeves and forepart.  It wasn’t bad for a first effort, but I made some poor fabric choices and the bodice and sleeves didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted them to.  The hat is a disaster (though it looks okay in pictures) and the overskirt was far too light and had a tendency to blow around quite a bit.  I’ve long since packed away this garb and forgotten where I’ve tucked it.  Still, I was pretty proud of the accomplishment–I’d made the gown and all the underpinnings, including the corset, shift, and farthingale.  In fact, the only thing I’m wearing in that picture that I didn’t make myself is the shawl that you can see looped around my elbows, which is the only piece of my garb that I’ve worn with every single iteration of my garb.  Seriously!  Everything I’ve ever done has this shawl with it.

The infamous shawl, purchased at Hollygrove in September 2000.

The infamous shawl, purchased at Hollygrove in September 2000.

Last weekend, my mother and I headed out to one of our two local JoAnn’s–she on a mission for costuming supplies for the high school production of Disney’s Cinderella, me with the idle thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d finally pick up supplies to make a new Tudor gown, since I’d been talking about making a new court gown for at least the past five years (Jen, Kristie, Trish, or Diane might know exactly how long I’ve made noises about doing it). I grabbed some of my reusable shopping bags, threw one of my beautiful Son of Sandlar boots into it (so I could color-match the wine-colored leather that makes up the body of my boots), and headed out on my hunt for appropriate fabrics that would work for a new court gown and coordinate with these boots, because god knows that I spent enough money on the boots–I’m going to wear them with all of my garb, dammit!

I’ve always known that I wanted to do one of two things for a new court gown: either a subtle brocade gown, or a velvet gown–and if I was going velvet, it had to be cotton velvet, because there’s no way I’m dry cleaning this monster every time I wear it.  That would just be silly!  In fact, the ideal combination would be something I could machine wash from underpinnings on up to the overdress, but that can be super hard to find when you’re dealing with these things.

I had started out thinking that I wanted the overdress to be wine-colored, or primarily wine-colored, and then the underskirt with black and/or silver as its main color.  A bit of searching through the bolts at JoAnn’s and trying to color match the leather of my boots quickly showed that wasn’t going to happen.  Most of the wine-colored fabrics there are either a little too red or a little too purple and looked strange against the color of my boots.  “Okay,” I said to myself.  “Black velvet overdress it is!  Then I’ll just need to find something appropriate for the forepart and undersleeves and I’ll be good.”

In this, I completely lucked out–JoAnn’s had a full bolt (12 yards) of black velveteen on a roll and I had a 50% off one item coupon (which, by the way, stacked with my 20% off total purchase coupon).  Buying fabric for these types of gowns can be total sticker shock, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but I’d gone in knowing that this was something I wanted to do on this particular shopping trip, so I went ahead and did it.  I spent about $72 for the full bolt of velveteen.  When you’re getting ready to do something like this, make sure you buy as much fabric as you think you might need, since dye lots can be different between bolts and you don’t want to end up with different colors of black in your gown.

After picking the black, I poked around in the home decorating section before heading over to the brocade and sari apparel fabrics, which is where my mother found me.  She took one look at the bolt of velveteen and said “You’re finally doing it?”

She’s known about my desire to make a new court gown for a while, too.

Velvet, brocade, and my boot -- the beginnings of my new court garb.

Velvet, brocade, and my boot — the beginnings of my new court garb.

In the end, she helped me pick out some red and black brocade for the forepart and sleeves that read well with the velvet and with my boots.  I’ll just have to figure out what kinds of trims I’ll use for the whole thing, but that comes later–much later!

Of course, I’ll have to make new underpinnings, too.  My size has changed a bit since I made my initial corset, and my farthingale is a mess these days–Renaissance dancing will do that to you, especially when you’re all just learning to do it for the first time.  So yesterday, we went back to JoAnn’s (Mom needed more fabric for more costumes for Cinderella, and I needed fabric to make a new corset, the back part of my underskirt, and a new farthingale) and I got some denim on sale that should be the trick nicely (the canvas at JoAnn’s is ridiculous and the cotton duck wasn’t on sale–the cream and black denim yardage I got will work for what I need).  A trip to Lowe’s yesterday afternoon netted me the cable ties I needed for the corset boning and the tubing I need for my farthingale.

All in all, I’m super excited.  It’s been a while since I’ve embarked on a project this ambitious, but I think it’s going to be great.

Now if I could only stop being distracted by the dollhouse I’m building (though that’s another post for another time)…

Caught a quilting bug…

Anna's Quilt - made by Erin M. Klitzke

Anna’s Quilt – made by Erin M. Klitzke

It’s official.

I’ve caught the quilting bug, and I’ve caught it pretty bad.

Now, making patchwork quilts has been a thing that I’ve really wanted to do since I was a kid and it’s something that I’ve dabbled in since I was pretty young.  I have tons of half-started projects laying around the house, tucked into bins or shoved in drawers.  I have a stash of fat quarters and yardage of quilter’s cottons and calicos that’s a shame to waste (we’re talking a few bins worth of fabric here–probably as much or more fabric than I have laying around for costuming projects).  That fabric and those projects have been sitting idle, quietly waiting for me to get around to making use of them.

Anna's quilt before I put the binding on.

Anna’s quilt before I put the binding on. The binding is in the same red fabric as the squares.

Before my niece was born, I started working on a strip quilt for her.  I’d finished the top by the time she was born, but the hand quilting and finishing took me until her first birthday–and made me vow to never hand quilt anything again!  Still, I managed to finish it, and for my first quilt brought to completion, I happen to think it’s wonderful (and my family and my sister-in-law’s family agreed!).

Immediately after finishing that quilt, I started digging around in my sewing area and found some nine-patch blocks for a quilt I’d started a long time ago for my younger sister, Kendall.  I realized that I was short a few nine-patch blocks, so I made some more over the course of the intervening days, watched a little too much of Fons and Porters’ Love of Quilting (yes, the series from PBS–I have some DVDs laying around because I am really that kind of geek), and spent a Saturday morning cutting background squares before bringing it up to the family room to test layouts.

Experimenting with layouts for Kendall's quilt

Experimenting with layouts for Kendall’s quilt last weekend–this is actually the layout I ended up going with.

As my mother and I stared at the first test layout, she suggested doing the blocks on point rather than as straight strips–and it was the on point layout that I ended up going with.  I was joking that my sister might not even want the quilt anymore, at which point I’d figure out something else to do with it–but one text message with a picture of the test layout later, and I knew that she still wanted the gift I started making her five years ago.

Over the course of that weekend and the following week, I finished sewing the blocks into strips–this weekend, I’m looking to possibly finish off the quilt top and maybe even finish the whole quilt–it depends on how ambitious I get.

The terrible part is that I’m already trying to figure out what the next quilt will be.

I’m hooked and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, either.

Detail of a strip from Kendall's quilt.

Detail of a strip from Kendall’s quilt.  She plays upright string bass.  The treble cleft and sheet music fabrics I chose for her and she chose the black and white cross-hatched.

Suddenly, craft show

So I found out on Sunday that I have a slot in the annual Athens Band Boosters Craft Show at Athens High School in Troy, MI on Saturday December 13, 2014.  I will be setting up there at about 6:45 in the morning for a show that starts at 9 and runs until 4.  I’ll have jewelry and papercrafts with me to sell.

The last few times I did this show, I didn’t do very well–I’m hoping for a better year this time around!

Six weeks until GVRen 2014!

Well, it’s that time of year again — the time of year when I start panicking in twelve directions because there’s so much crafting and writing to do and so little time to do it in!  The Grand Valley State University Renaissance Festival is in exactly six weeks and I should really think about inventorying stock and making some new things, including perhaps a cloak or two, as I’m seriously lacking that department.  Then again, it took about three years to sell the last cloak I made, so maybe I shouldn’t worry about it!

Color spread on my brighter array of pinwheel and ornament tags, which I'll be debuting at GVRen this year.  Prototype cream-colored tags are currently available on Etsy.

Color spread on my brighter array of pinwheel and ornament tags, which I’ll be debuting at GVRen this year. Prototype cream-colored tags are currently available on Etsy.

Last year’s festival was a mixed bag for me.  I had to buy a brand spanking new tent in the hours before faire opened on Saturday last year because the weight of rain on the roof destroyed my old tent–total bummer, that, right?  On a brighter note, when I got the new tent it was much, much nicer than my old tent–right down to having dome lights built into it!  I’ll need to make a canvas cover for it at some point to help disguise how…modern…it is, but there are worse problems to have to be sure.  It’s a solid tent and I’m glad to have picked it up despite the circumstances.

I debuted my papercrafts at last year’s festival and I did surprisingly well with them.  I’ll be bringing an array of my gift tags for sale this year in addition to my other paper fare that debuted last year.  There will be, of course, my usual array of jewelry as well, and the new square overskirts that I debuted last year as well.  I may do some experimentation with odds and ends for this year’s faire, since I did get the new embroidery machine and it seems a shame not to do some playing around with it for festival, just to add a touch of something different to the same old things.

That will come after inventory, though.  Once I know what I’ve got, I’ll know what I need more of and how much time I’ll have to devote to adding stock.  I’m more ahead of the curve this year than I usually am, though, which is a good thing because I seem to have less and less free time every year in the weeks leading up to faire.

Tomorrow’s my annual trip to Holly, so we’ll see if I come up with anything awesome while I’m wandering around those environs, too.  I’m in the market for some Son of Sandlar boots myself–after doing this for fourteen years, it’s time I invest in an excellent pair of boots.  I priced them out (almost ordered a pair, actually) when I paid a visit to the Great Lakes Medieval Faire and Market a few weeks back and it’s time.  I’ve got them all picked out and it’ll be super hard to wait for them to be made (I have huge calves, so they’re a custom job instead of try and buy), but I should have them in time for the 2015 season.  I’m also in the market for a new bodice and I know a couple of places where I’ll be having a good, hard look (the gents at Crimson Chain typically get my business–they’re the folks from whom I purchased my current green leather) for something pleasing.

Stay tuned for more pictures and updates as faire approaches.  Folks looking for information on the books I’ll be bringing along can hit my personal site at www.embklitzke.com, but as it stands right now, I’l have paperback copies of Epsilon: Broken StarsUNSETIC Files: Between Fang and ClawUNSETIC Files: The Measure of DreamsAwakenings: Book One, and What Angels Fear.  I was hoping to have The Last ColonyAwakenings: War Drums, and even Epsilon: Redeemer ready for this faire, but something tells me it’s not going to happen.  I’m hoping for Redeemer to release sometime around Christmas…but we’ll see what the next few months bring.  (If you’re a fan and have been hoping, though, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure to bring you a hardcopy of the current draft to tide you over until it’s done!)

Until next time…

Custom onesies for a baby shower

A few weeks back was my sister-in-law’s baby shower, organized by her mother, aunt, sister, sister’s best friend, and my sister-in-law and brother’s best friend.  Fairly early on, my sister-in-law and brother’s best friend knew that she wasn’t going to be able to make the shower (she had another family obligation the same weekend), but she had an awesome idea for a craft for the shower.  I happened to be in the Grand Rapids area for the Grand Valley State University Renaissance Festival that weekend and she got in touch with me via Facebook to see if I could handle the craft.

The craft: Custom onesies made with quilting fabric and heat and bond

Supplies needed: Plain cotton onesies in various sizes, 100% cotton quilting fabric in various colors and patterns, fusible webbing (light/medium weight – we used heat’n’bond), stencils appropriate for baby garments (I also brought my Fiskars Fuse and some dies to cut some of them), scissors, pencils, iron and surface to iron on, fabric markers (optional)

My mother and I did some testing the week before the event to see what kind of fusible we wanted to use for the project.  On the day of the shower, we showed up with the onesies and all of our supplies and set up for the craft.

The color array

It was a total hit.  The onesies that people made for my niece were beautiful and according to my sister-in-law’s mom, everyone enjoyed making them, too.  The craft station was the very last thing we packed up at the end of the event because people were still making their onesies up until they kicked us out of the room.

Some onesies!

Even the servers who came through were impressed by what they saw us doing.  One told me she’d seen similar things done at other showers, but none of them were as pretty or as nice as what we accomplished.

More Onesies!

More Onesies!

We’ve still got some onesies to make because we didn’t use all of them.  However, we hadn’t brought pink and purple fabric to the shower on purpose because until the shower, we didn’t know the gender of the baby.  Now that we do, my mother, sister, and I will be able to make some adorable pink and purple onesies once my sister comes home from college.

Grand Valley Renaissance Festival upcoming and new product line

Geez, I need to stop disappearing because of other projects!

Adventures in papercraftingIn a few weeks, I’ll be at the Grand Valley Renaissance Festival at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI, and I’ll be showing off a new line of Jude’s Chest products which includes new papercrafts and cards as well as some new textile work.  I recently got into papercrafting (about a year ago) and now it’s kind of starting to be a terrible thing for me.  I picked up a Fiskars Fuse last year and have been playing around with it ever since.  I’ve also been having some adventures in cardmaking, which has also been awesome.  I’m loving embossing folders more than I care to admit.Embossed Cards - round 1

Overskirts have been a thing that I’ve been meaning to experiment with for a very, very long time, and I finally scraped together some time to do it the weekend the littlest Klitzke moved up to CMU a few weeks ago.  My best friend and I had planned a trip to the Michigan Renaissance Festival at Holly the following weekend and I’d been thinking that my garb needed a bit more color.  No pictures right now, unfortunately, but I’ll be sure to post some once I’ve made some for selling and not just for me.  The one I made for myself is a very rich, dark red color out of a textured moleskin fabric that’s very similar to the fabric of my skirt itself.  A trip to the fabric store is in the books within the next week or so, since supplies will be needed so I can be prepared for the festival.

Grand Valley Renaissance Festival is on the campus of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI.  The festival opens at 10am on Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6 and will close at 7PM on Saturday and 5PM on Sunday.  Come see your favorite renaissance woman (crafter, writer, historian and mild-mannered title clerk) at the faire!

Adventures in papercrafting

Crosses and swirlsI’ve been quiet of late, but how is that different from usual?

Happy TravelsAmong my more writerly creative pursuits, I’ve taken up a bit of papercrafting as well, so there’ll be papercrafts popping up in the Etsy shop over the next few days and weeks as I continue experimenting and start photographing.Adventures in papercrafting

I will also be doing some inventorying of my jewelry stock and putting up some more listings of that as well.

So much to do, so little time….

The site’s been quiet of late, but that’s got a lot to do with my being quite busy the past several months!  Writing has begun to eat up a great deal of what little free time I’ve enjoyed since starting a new (40-hour a week) position, but I’ve found time to make some beautiful new pearl pieces and experiment with some new designs with Swarovski bicones.  Some of the new pearl designs are up in the Etsy shop.

I’ll be doing the Athens Festival Craft Show at Larson Middle School on November 17, 2012 and have applied to do the Crafter’s Clearance at Henry Ford II in February.  No other shows lined up yet, but if you like my work and would love to see me at your local show, drop me a message and I’ll be happy to look into it.  I am limited largely to the Detroit Metro area at this time, though, so keep that in mind!

Commissioned pieces are available; just drop me a line here or on Etsy (Etsy is often the better bet!).

Festival roll-out!

In a few hours, I’ll be setting up a tent (probably in the rain) at the Grand Valley Renaissance Festival for the…fifth time.  I’ve only missed it once since graduation (and that was because I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding a few weeks after festival and was threatened with death if I got sick–so I decided not to go.).

I’ll be there with jewelry, garb, bits and pieces of geekery, Miss Jennie and my boyfriend Mike.  A grand time will be had by all!  I’m also introducing a new product (which I unfortunately don’t have pictures of)–gaming tokens.  They’re about a quarter inch thick and the size of a dime with the letters A-J stamped into them, to help GMs keep track of which enemies are attacking whom.  It was something I always wanted to have as a GM…and now I’m passing that little thing on to others.  They’re made of polymer clay and I’ll be selling them for $5/set of 10 in a little organza baggie.

It’ll be Mike’s first experience of actually running a show with me–he’s visited me at one, but he’s never been there for the whole time I’ve run one.  Jen, however, is old hand at this and should be fine.  Despite the nasty Friday weather, the forecasts say that Saturday and Sunday will be beautiful, even if it’ll be a little chilly on Saturday.

As long as it’s not 30 degrees and snowing, it won’t be the nastiest weather I’ve experienced at a festival…and rain on set-up day tends to be good luck, since that generally means that the weather for the weekend is lovely.

Also bringing some writerly things, including booklets containing an excerpt from Awakenings and a business card with my official site as an author and a free download of my novelette, Falling Stars.  We’ll see how many of those wander away from my booth as freebies.

Time to finish packing…hope to see a lot of folks at GVRen!