Monday, July 20, 2015

Not a "Liebster" Award

My "Eura" dress
Stella Anderson of Historical Living with Hvitr has nominated this blog for something called the Liebster Award.

I have received a similar award before, years ago; the Versatile Blogger award.  This sort of award is meant to be a way for bloggers to recognize fellow bloggers of quality. The idea is that each nominated person agrees, in turn, to nominate suitable blogs and asks each nominated blog to feature the award tag, to nominate a specified number of other bloggers, to answer questions about him or herself and/or the subject of his/her blogging, and to generate a question list for his/her nominees.

I am touched that Stella nominated me, and I have no problem with the idea of such awards/mutual support networks. However, my pleasure evaporated as I looked at the Liebster website (which happened because you're asked to link to that site as part of accepting the award). The Liebster website (specifically, the page with the Liebster award rules on it) is packed full of advertising by the woman who runs it for her services in teaching people how to monetize their blog and learn to blog more "effectively".

I don't like the idea of using the "award" mechanic as a way of advertising one's own commercial services. Moreover, my impression from the webpage is that the Liebster Award is a much better means for the Liebster Award's creator to get web traffic for her blog than it is for other bloggers to support each other and find new blogs of high quality but (currently) low readership.

On the other hand, I'm sure that Stella nominated me because she likes my work and wanted other people to see and appreciate it too.  I don't want to show disrespect to her by simply refusing to accept the award.  Thank you so much, Stella, for thinking of me and thinking well of me.

So what I've decided to do is to do all of the fun things about the Liebster award, such as answering questions, posing new questions, and providing a list of blogs I'd like to recognize as wonderful and worth reading. But I expressly do NOT intend to accept the Liebster award, and to that end I'm deliberately ignoring some of the "rules". Specifically, I'm not including the Liebster label on this post. Nor am I listing the Liebster Award rules in this post (anyone who is curious can use the link to the Liebster page above to look them up).

So here are my answers to Stella's questions:
1.  If you could make any costume from a painting/photo/movie/book, what would it be?
I don't really have a movie costume favorite. I'm more likely to be inspired by historical models than movie costumes. 

2.  What’s your favourite thing that you’ve made? 
The very first "Eura" style dress that I made; you can see a picture of it above.  It is wonderfully comfortable as well as being washable and attractive; I really love the red trim I found to put on it.  

3.  Have you ever worn a historical piece as an everyday clothing item, and did anyone notice?

Yes. My mother helped me make a Kinsale cloak from a silk wool twill, and when I was in college I wore it sometimes as outerwear with ordinary clothes. Unfortunately, it was a light enough fabric that it wasn't very warm, but it was a rosy red in color, and gorgeous!    I can't recall if anyone noticed or remarked about it, though.

4.  What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your sewing career?

Learning how to properly finish seams. I used to have real problems with this, both because I found it to be boring, and because my seam allowances were so irregular that binding them was a real problem. Since then I've learned techniques for doing a nicely finished hand-sewn seam, but I'm still at sea with regard to machine sewn finishings. 

5.  Do you prefer to use ready-made patterns, or draft your own?

I prefer to make costumes using measurements that dictate how big the pieces of the costume must be, which isn't exactly a pattern. If I'm making something more modern (say, from the 16th century onwards), I prefer to use a pattern because I don't have the faintest idea how to begin drafting a "modern" pattern. 

6.  What’s that one thing on your to-do list you want to do but keep putting off?  
Finishing the shawl I started for my Iron Age Lithuanian outfit (pictures here). It still needs to have the rest of the fringe added and some copper spirals sewn onto it. 

7.  Do you tend to plan costumes around personas you want to play, or construct personas for costumes you want to make?

I don't really have personae because I don't do reenactment, but it's closest to say that I construct personae for costumes I want to make because they look interesting or because I want to learn how it feels to wear them. 

8.  What’s that one piece of sewing-related equipment you’d really like to have?  

Historical Enterprises sells reproductions of Viking era thread winders made from bone or horn (buyer's choice). I'd love to have a few for my Viking sewing kit, but at $2.95 US each it seems kind of frivolous for me to buy them right now. 

9.  You, of course, are a modern person living in the 21st century. Do you think that has an effect on how you think about your historical projects?

Absolutely. It is hard for a modern person to think about clothing, and making clothing, in the same way that a person living in earlier times would, because clothing (even "expensive" clothing) is so inexpensive now, both in terms of the time it takes to make it and in terms of the cost of the materials and tools used to make it.

My favorite metaphor for how people must have considered the clothes they wore in pre-modern times is the automobile.  Like modern cars, clothing was expensive relative to food or other survival needs, but just as most modern people need to have and use a car daily, everyone needed to own and use clothing daily.  Similarly, the tendency was to patch (i.e., repair) and keep wearing their clothing for as long as possible, just as most people try to keep their cars drivable for as long as possible today.  Clothing was also a major item of status display, and poorer but ambitious people tried to obtain clothing that made them look as though their status was greater than it actually was, just as people try to obtain the nicest car possible for their money.     By the same token, just as rich people today have nicer cars and more of them, rich people in earlier times had more clothing and clothing made from more expensive materials than poor people did.  

After all these years of sewing, I've finally gotten pretty good at simulating the aspect of early clothing that involves making it with care to last, from good materials bought in as small a quantity that will serve the purpose. However, I have a very hard time treating my period clothing as though it is clothing I wear everyday.  For example, it drives me nuts if I get the least bit of dirt on any of the period clothing I've made while I'm wearing it, and that kind of mindset would have been impractical for someone living in, say, the tenth century. 

10.  If you had a time machine, what period would you visit first?

I would love to visit Viking age Scandinavia, but for me to use a time machine to do so would be foolish, because I don't know any of the Scandinavian languages well enough even to make my basic needs understood, which would make me very vulnerable to exploitation and worse.  So if I did have access to a time machine, I'd stick to the Philadelphia area right before the American Revolution, because that's far enough in the past to be interesting to me but not so far back in time that I couldn't make myself understood, and my handsewing is (probably just barely) good enough that I could have made money that way. 

11. What new project are you most excited about? 

I've been having trouble getting excited about costume with my employment situation so unstable, but the project I'm planning now--the sprang cap for the July HSM Challenge, is pretty exciting, because I've never tried sprang before.

Here are 5 blogs that I think are very much worth reading and why:

Pass the Garum. For sharing thoughts and experiments in Roman cuisine in a reader-friendly style.

A String Geek's Stash.  For bringing back to life excellent old research, and thereby showing us all a different way to use a blog.

A Stitch in Time. For countless wonderful and fascinating links relating to historical costume and archaeology and (occasionally) other subjects.

Opus Anglicanum. For her many inspirational displays of excellent period-style embroidery.

Medieval York | Eulalia Piebakere's adventures in recreational medievalism. For candidly showing us all the process by which she is growing as a scholar of historical food and costume.

Finally, I'm not "nominating" anyone for the Liebster, but if anyone who reads my blog would like, just for fun, to answer any or all of the following questions, either in comments here or on their blog, please feel free!

1. What is the most authentic item of historical material culture (clothing, food, furniture, jewelry, tools) you have ever created and what did you do to create it?
2. Have you ever handsewn an entire garment?
3. What is the biggest mistake you've ever made on a historical 
costuming/construction project, and how did you go about trying to fix it?
4. Is your family involved in your historical culture hobby? How?
5. What originally got you interested in history?
6. Does your job relate to history or archaeology and if so, how?
7. What is the most interesting book on a historical subject that you have read?
8. If you sew historical costumes, do you also sew clothing for yourself for everyday wear?
9. Describe what your ideal historical costume would be like (whether or not you have attempted to make it for yourself).
10. What do you enjoy most about your historical recreation/costuming activities?
11. How did you originally learn about Loose Threads: Yet Another Costuming Blog?


  1. Don't worry, I don't feel at all disrespected :) , and thank you for answering my questions because I was really interested to see people's answers! I think the Liebster award is a nice way to show appreciation for blogs one admires, and introduce people to cool blogs they may not have encountered before, but I have to say I was a bit concerned about the level of advertising myself.

    The Eura dress is lovely, especially with the trim. Such beautiful colours! I'm very impressed with your Iron Age Lithuanian outfit too and would love to see the shawl finished. That embroidery they used to do with wire spiral beads is spectacular.

    1. I felt that the questions, and the bringing attention to blogs one admires, are the most attractive things behind such web awards anyway. I'm glad you understand.

      Long ago, I made a second Eura-style dress (dark blue with white and blue trim) but never liked it quite as well. It is part of an early attempt by me to recreate the costume of the woman in the Eura, Finland grave (c.1000 CE). Because of the way it was constructed, it should still fit me even though I've since gained weight. Maybe some day I'll get Eric to take a picture of me wearing it, and post it on this blog.

      There are many people who've made better Iron Age Lithuanian clothing than my outfit, but given how little I knew about the period when I started it, I'm pleased at how well it came out. I'm pleased that you like it. Probably all I will do re: spiral wire applique will be to string spirals on a cord as long as the short ends of the shawl is wide and stitch the cord down.