Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | January 29, 2012

It’s January…I should be sewing costumes!

It’s funny how we fall into routines throughout the year.  Here I am at mid January and my mind and fingers are whispering, “Shouldn’t you be sewing?”

January is the slow season for a lot of people.  they are getting into the groove of the new year – trying to put the correct year on their correspondence and maintain the resolutions they dreamed up on December 31st.  For me, it is the month that I start working on costumes.  The costumes may be for Renaissance faire or for the high school spring musical.  Usually, it’s both.

This year’s no different.

I attended my guild’s first meeting of the year about a week ago.  That is always the trigger for the sewing that I do for Renaissance faire.  This time it was the discussion of how to help some new members get costumes appropriate for participating in our Scottish setting vs. an English setting.  And it was also following up with a guild friend who needs help making a new costume.  My mind immediately starts assessing what fabric lies in stash.  “Where did I put that steel blue cotton?”,  “Can I make a cloak out of that thick brown wool?”,  “What about doing a dusty rose wool gown? Yeah, that color works.”

I figure that I’ll be making a new wool gown for myself and a new summerweight gown for my friend Erin, and helping my friend Lisa modify an outfit so she has a second set to wear. Daughter insists that she doesn’t need anything new since she is heading off to college next year and she can make her existing stuff last one more season.

Then last week I attended the first meeting regarding the spring musical at the high school.  This year the play will be – (drum roll please) – Crazy for You.

Yeah, I didn’t recognize the title either, so I went to research the plot…Boy sent by overbearing mother to west to foreclose on a theater, but he falls in love with the theater owner’s daughter, but she hates him, insert switched/hidden identities and dancing girls, romantic plot complications, and you think, “oh melodrama”.  Daughter, the Stage Manager, has summarized it this way, “It’s about singing cowboys and a Hungarian guy.”

But then you see the list of songs and realize “OMG, it’s the play with all of THOSE songs???   Cool!”  Here’s some songs from the show:  “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “I Got Rhythm”, “Nice Work If You Can Get It”.  Yowza.

And the costumes.  Oh boy!  We have circa 1932 styles!  We have cowboys!  We have showgirls!  My cohort, Jane, and I are going to have a blast!  Last night I read through the script and created a list of costumes we’re going to need.  At least six showgirls!  Maybe two dance costumes each!  Suits for a few guys.  French waiter outfits?! Boyohboyohboy!!

So, to heck with resolutions about using a new word a day – I’m gearing up to keep my tradition of pulling out the sewing machine and invading the dining room and finding ways to assure my husband that we will eat at the table on a regular basis despite the sewing piles.

I’ll update you later from the lint pile.


Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | January 1, 2012

2012 sounds nice and round, don’t you think?

It’s the first day of the new year.  2012.

Many of us – personally known and unknown – are so freaking grateful to see the backside of 2011.   It feels like the last year was the salt in the wounds that we  collectively acquired for the last couple of years.  2011 was the grinding of sand into the creases of your bathing suit.  2011 was the driver who cut you off on the freeway,  so that you veer and hit the brakes, and then smiles as he flips you the bird as he speeds away. 2011 was the sad night where you just felt like crying because you are so tired of hearing more bad news.  2011 was the pointy, sharp edged thing that was in your shoe while walking to the bus stop because your car was in the shop.

Looking back I find images of 2011 crammed into the corners of my brain…where I was trying not to dwell on them.

I think of the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  How we watched in horror at the totality of the destruction in such a vast area in mere minutes, of the immense loss of life and livelihoods.   I try to dumb down the fear and pain of the nuclear accident – and how people had to flee their ancestral homes, how workers went to the reactor to work in conditions that will probably steal years from their lives, how the rest of the “developed” world had to think what would happen if the same thing were to happen with their nuclear facilities.  And even those who tried to remain at a distance, had to deal with shortages of cars or technological gadgets because Japanese manufacturers were effected.

I think of the unrest that erupted throughout the world and the rising of people against their governments as they got fed up with being ignored and victimized.  It is easy to think that the world’s unrest takes place in third world countries or governments of dictators, but it really was worldwide.  Even here at home (a place where I am glad to be a citizen who has the opportunity to speak my displeasure and act on it, thank you very much), I felt ill at ease (yes, that is sarcasm) with the politicians and financial “leaders” who have totally lost touch the reality of me and my neighbors.  I think of the Occupy movement here in the US, where some people were motivated to take a stand and tell our leaders that we are pissed off, and then having the message trivialized by the media who grasped onto the anarchists, troublemakers who got violent, and the police who lost their neutrality and gave into fear,  and protesters who looked like holdouts from the 60s too unfocused to accomplish anything.  I still watch and hope that this unrest will become more widespread and gain support in a productive way, even as I remind my friends and neighbors and family that we have reasons to be dissatisfied with the message from elected leaders and financial institutions and media that everything needs to settle down and “normalize” again.  I wonder that I may be not unusual in this thinking.  I am astonished that I’ve become as angry and passionate about this unrest as I am.  I’m hoping that I’m not one of a few.

I think of the horrible and sad events and how there was some glimmer of brightness that emerged.

The death of Muammar Gadaffi and the rise of people who struggle to redefine themselves;  the death of teens who were bullied for being gay and the birth of The Trevor Project and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; the outrage of a gunman in Norway who killed 80 and the lesbian couple who rescued 40 students while the violence was happening. ( ) ; the death of Steve Jobs who created technology that changed the way people communicated and the way that common people broadcast disturbing news on cell phones and youtube to show brutality occurring and not allow authorities to hush up the media (thinking of pepper spray in Davis, CA and women protestors in Cairo) and asking for help.  This has been a year when I’ve noticed the world getting smaller and people paying attention to each other just a little more.

2012.  It sounds nice and round, feels bright and shiny, and cool and soft.  It seems like …forgiveness to give the new year a chance to unfold and give us gifts of abundance, cheerfulness, positive thinking and positive action, and the ability to get a fresh start.

I have a couple of friends who constantly remind me that there is power in positive thinking and action.  I’m going to give it a try this year, with more sincerity than I’ve mustered in the past.  Goodness knows, the “same old, same old” hasn’t been working for us lately.  I think this may the single doable new year’s resolution that I can make work this year.

So, I’ll start off with a little positive thinking…following the tradition of our local radio station, KFOG, I share with you Eric Idle of Monty Python singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”,

and Nanci Griffith singing “From a Distance”, with the songwriter Julie Gold,

and “The Revolution Starts Now”, by Steve Earle  (

and “Hey World”, by Michael Franti and Spearhead,

So let’s go out there and make this a spectacular year.

Aunt Magaidh

Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | November 24, 2011


It’s Thanksgiving and I’m up and heating up the offerings we’ll take to my sister-in-law’s house this afternoon.  So in the meantime, I thought I’d take a moment to offer thanks.

I am thankful for the life I have.  I have a home, loving family, good friends, and reasonably good health.

I am grateful for a job.  It’s been stressful lately, but I’m lucky to have one.  I hope my out of work friends will be gifted with new jobs soon.

I am grateful for living in this country.  It isn’t perfect, but it is good. I offer a prayer of thanks to the Original Peoples of this country, who gave us a tradition of taking a time to offer the Creator thanks for all we have been provided.  I offer a prayer of peace for our country and the other countries around the world, especially those in conflict.  I offer a prayer of healing and understanding and…enlightenment for my own country as we struggle with the inequities of our communities, races and classes.

I am thankful for living in my community.  It is diverse and dynamic.  It allows me and my family to celebrate different cultures and ways of living.  Living where we are, we have more opportunities for inclusive rather than exclusive.  I think that is a good thing.

I am grateful to have enough to share.  The Universe – in it’s great plan – throws us reminders of what we have.  I’ve recently been given several reminders that although we are not wealthy, we have enough to share and therefore have the obligation to think of those people in our community who have less financial stability, shelter stability, health stability, and mental stability.  (Dear Universe, message received, thank you, and we will be taking action soon if not already.)

So, we’ll be driving up north – taking my mom and one of Daughter’s friends – and will participate in the “traditional” Thanksgiving feast with “traditional” football on the tv and all that other stuff. (I’ll be the one knitting or spinning in the corner and visiting with family and NOT planning on shopping tomorrow or watching the football games.)  But I’ll also be offering a prayer up to the sky thanking Mother Earth and Father Sun, and asking for blessings as we share bread with others.

Have a safe and warm and grateful holiday wherever you are.

Aunt Magaidh

Yes, I’ve been missing in action again.  But I have a good excuse.  Daughter is a senior this year and we’ve been very busy with the researching of colleges, filling out applications, meeting with a college counselor, and working on the fall play.

This is the second fall play that Daughter is the Stage Manager.  We have a new drama teacher (again).  And, yes, I volunteered to help with the costumes again.  It’s the last year that Daughter is in high school and we have been doing our best to support the theater program these last 3 years, so we’re in it for the long haul.

But that means that with all the fall activities (including working, visiting Occupy Oakland, and keeping groceries in the house) and scrounging costumes and props for the play, I haven’t kept up with this blog.  I have been updating my Facebook status.  So I figured I’d give you a snapshot of the last couple of weeks by sharing those statuses.

Oct 11 –“Score! Got some useful stuff at thrift shop for school play. I love it when the kids start to get excited by their costumes…suddenly they start to know that the performance is real. All part of the process. So much fun to watch.”

Oct 17 –“Straight jacket for play is finished. Next…locating some very large suits for our big guys. Yep, costume for school play is in full swing.”

Oct 23 –“Being a feminist takes work…having to write a letter to one of Daughter’s teachers and bring up an issue because he is not thinking of the ramifications of a request that makes her sacrifice her own goals for his/group’s. Wow. The subtleties. Yes, the need for feminist thinking and action continues.”

Oct 24 –“Strongly worded letter is being delivered to Daughter’s teacher – questioning request that she accommodate needs of group without strong benefit to her. We’ll see how this goes. At least Papa Bear is standing with Mama Bear on this one.”

Oct 26 –“Knitting as distraction…yes, yarn and needles sooth the nerves as I watch the unrest in our communities.”

Oct 27, two posts – “Wondering if the police is really reviewing procedures, especially since there are more than the Oakland Police are involved.”

Oakland’s police review body looks into clashes between officers and protesters after Iraq war veteran suffered fractured skull

“Looking forward to positive volunteering today and this weekend. With all the negativity flying around, I am glad that I volunteer on community projects. Today is school play stuff. Saturday is helping homeless people. What are you volunteering to do this week?”

Oct 28 – “Today…must look for more costume pieces for play, drop off a borrowed wagon, schedule to pick up a sofa on Sunday for drama teacher, do laundry, make pumpkin soup…but I just want to nap and knit instead. And I am curious about what Occupy Oakland looks like, but am not sure I want to make the trip or deal with the craziness I suspect is there. I’ll probably end up frozen in my indecision. At least it is Friday.”

Oct 30 – I shared a link from one of Daughter’s teachers, “Hey! Help us get this for our school! This is the stuff that gets students EXCITED about learning!!!”

Physics students need to see cool and memorable demonstrations. Help us shatter frozen flowers, implode aluminum cans, and see particles streaming through a cloud chamber. My students love cool… My students need liquid nitrogen storage so we can use our cloud chambers. We actually have around 10…
Nov 1 – “You know how I’ve always been thankful that Daughter isn’t a squeely type of girl…well…she’s been squeeling a lot now!!! Her first acceptance letter is from her dream school – Southern Oregon University, into their honors program! (Now we wait for other acceptance letters and work on financial aid and scholarship offers.)”

Nov 2 , two posts – Knitting and play


The best of science fiction, manga, and animaguiri meets knit one, purl two as knit siren and part-time roller derby girl Joan of Dark offers up an out-of-this-world assortment of knitting nerdiness inside Knits for Nerds . The patterns for 30 iconic clothing and accessory items inspired by…


Hey San Leandro, come see the first play in our new “Black Box” Theater in the Arts Education Center at San Leandro High School!

Nov 4  – I went and visited Occupy Oakland.  “Images from my visit to Frank Ogawa Plaza…Negatives: the unattended information booths, the usual loitering young people that remind me of the transient dead head tribe, the usual down and out people that are in downtown Oakland talking about never getting a chance as they smoke, tents crowded together, hearing from the shopkeeper that her business is down by 70%, the expected yelling guy “I’m not radical, the truth is radical”…Positives: the woman who cleaned up and restocked the offrenda under one of the oak trees and lit fresh incense, seeing the faded grafitti remnants that Occupy people had scrubbed away pretty well, the look on the shopkeeper’s face when I told her I came into her shop specifically to buy something and support her, spinning some yarn and adding it (with a prayer for peace and healing) to the yarn/braid art just behind the interfaith tent, the two young men who are really Occupy Oakland calming yelling man and taking him away from the media van that he was assaulting, lingering on the fringes of the public Friday prayers by the Muslim congregation who gathered in front of City Hall and feeling peaceful.”

Nov 6, two posts  – “The school play opens this week! Still need a non-white hard hat. (Yeah, I know that isn’t the norm.) Today I start shopping early and report to the tech rehearsals at 11. Scrounging makeup, throw pillows, a shirt, and a wastebasket…the last minute shopping lists are always interesting.”

I list the play event on FB. “Come and see the Fall Play at San Leandro High School.  It’s open for 2 weekends.  There’s even a matinee next weekend! And you MacIain People – Daughter, Nate, and Emma are involved.  I’m loving “Mere Mortals” and “DMV Tyrant” acts especially!”

Friday, November 11 at 8:00pm

Nov 7 – “Crunch time for school play. See you all when I have a brain cell working.”

Nov 8,  three posts –“Today is first true dress rehearsal for the fall play. Two quick costume changes – one of them kinda complicated. It’ll be an interesting run through. And many thanks to Tina who came through for us with a red hard hat!”

“Looking for rope to give to Daughter…she needs to string up a few actors who are misbehaving. Ah…dress rehearsals.”

“Hey Stage Manager and Crew…”

Nov 9, 7:16 am “Yes, I hemmed linen slacks this morning before 7 am. Yes, I was in my nightgown. Yes, I am going to the dress rehearsal and hoping to hem the sleeves of a suit (tack them up actually). No, the children who are wearing these items were not at the previous rehearsals when I could have fitted them conveniently. Yes, if I get complaints, pins may be left in said clothing item. Of course, this assumes that the drama teacher and stage manager haven’t reduced them to bloody puddles in the hallway and there are bodies to dress.”

Nov 10 , 7 am – “Just finished tacking up the sleeves of a suit jacket for the play. That should do it. Tonight I sit in the house for the dress rehearsal. Tomorrow night I sit in the hallways ready with safety pins and duct tape. It’s showtime!”

Nov 11 ,  about 7 am – “Tonight is opening night. Send calming thoughts…so actors will remember lines and stage manager doesn’t kill anyone. And if you are coming to the show, and looking for best seats, stay toward the center-ish.”

So there it is…what I’ve been up to for the last month or so.  And, yes, you dear readers should support your local schools and theater and art programs…so if you are in our area, come see the fall play!

Aunt Magaidh

Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 28, 2011

Much Ado About Sebastopol…Spinner Margret finally gets there!

So after a year of waiting…I finally got to perform at Much Ado About Sebastopol, MAAS.  For those of you not in the know by now, MAAS is a fundraiser for Sebastopol schools.  Here’s the link:

Any hooo…

It was a year I had to wait to participate in this faire.  I went to workshops on history and religion and Elizabethan grammar.  I worked on and modified my English Renaissance dress (convertible Frankendress).  After a year of building friendships and relationships with my fellow Villagers of St. George, inhabitants of Fenford, I spruced up my spinning wheel, found some wool that passed for madder dyed, and packed the corset I never wear for my Scots persona.  I drove the couple of hours up to Sebastopol and checked into the hotel to prepare for the Saturday call of 8:30 am.


Favorite moments – starting with the morning of the event:

When ironing my dress at the hotel, Kimiko, , costumer/instructor extraordinaire who has come up special for this faire and is presenting period needlework and blackwork, looks over.  She approves of the blue: “It’s not as electric as it looks in your photos.  It’s modern, but not bad.”  I breathe a sigh of relief.  Yep, I knew the blue was okay, and I feel victorious because I would hate to have a dress that is perfect in all ways but the color.  Then I ask her about the fabric it looks the most like.  “Call it fustian, ”  Kimiko tells me.  I am finally relaxing about the outfit.

Pre-gate opening I am on the watch for the famous Noel G.   Noel is THE ruff and partlet maker for the event – an artist/historian buff obsessed with bringing authentic to our events, in a good way.  His costume projects are inspirational to newbies like me.  I love the research he does to get his projects just right…  On my way to notes, a tall slender man in black jeans and t-shirt stops and glances at me.  He stands still with a puzzled look on his face.  I stop.  I look at him and tilt my head, puzzled.  He asks, “Maggie?”  I ask, “Noel?”  We both move toward each other and hug.  “What were you so worried about?  You look wonderful!  Turn! Turn!”  I spin, beaming.  “The girl has got it going on!”  He has just made my morning.

I stand at notes with my faire sister “Merry”.  (One calls your sister-in-law “sister” when using Elizabethan-period-speak.  Merry is actually my friend Vonnie, a fellow spinner.)  She is dressed in an olive green linen kirtle with murrey sleeves and brown wool partlet.  I am dressed in blue “fustian” kirtle with matching sleeves.  We are coifed and topped with straw hats.  Our arms are linked.  During the pep talk, notes, safety announcements, etc. (given by fearless leader Rydell), our Villagers Leader, Claudia, looks over,  looks us over up and down, and gives a loving smile while patting her heart.

Merry and I return to our wheels at the Weaver’s House, prep our supplies, adjust our hats.  The gates open.  The Weaver’s House is visited by a steady stream of visitors asking about blackwork, warp and weft, plied yarns and spinning.  Elementary, middle, high school kids, and their assorted parents and guardians.  Dozens and dozens of patrons come by our wheels and looms and needles.  The cordwainer and fancy goods ladies across the way are equally swamped with visitors.  We are part of a program where students are to visit crafters and get answers about the crafts we present.  After we teach our visitors a bit about our craft we are supposed to stamp their Passports to History.

We are given a stamp of a lightbulb to mark the little booklet passport.  Come on…how do we explain this modern object in an Elizabethan context??  One person called it a bottle stopper.  I turned it upside down and began calling it a very strange looking fig.  The moment came when one  student tried to explain to us that it was a light bulb – which then led to a conversation about sources of light that grew in the ground, bulbs grow in the ground.  You could see the student thinking about how he had to find a way to find common ground with us…and translate his world into the world that we were doing our darndest to maintain.  It was precious.

In the afternoon, a little blonde with blue eyes and blue dress and a pink flower upon her cheek, comes up to me.  She is about 3 or 4.  She puts her hand on my knee oblivious to the crowd moving around us.  “I’m hot, ” she says in a quavering voice that is much like a lost child on the verge of meltdown.  I take her hand.  I check her forehead and cheek.  “Where is your mummy?” I ask.  She points to a woman enthralled at the loom discussing the work with the master weaver.  Suddenly her father looks up from 10 feet away, aware that he has been errant in his duties.  I make eye contact and say in a mother’s voice, gently reprimanding and gently reassuring,  “She says she is hot.  She needs some water now, please.”  The child and I walk toward him and I gently push the child in his direction.    She reluctantly lets go of my hand.

Yes, this was a weekend whose lesson is trust.

Trust is what let’s us play with our fellow actors and our patrons.  Trust is what allows us to take a risk in performing in an open-air theater where there are no scripts or curtains.

My fellow villagers are a lovely and quick family.  In the morning, we found Harold Huddleston, Monger and rascal, passing by our door.  We engaged him by asking about a defective flyer (a very important part of a spinning wheel, not period by the way) purchased for my “sister” Merry.  He tried to divert the conversation by selling us an orange…which for all the world looked like a tuber!  Later we were serenaded by Village children singing as chaperoned by Mistress Dyer, the merchant’s widow.  Throughout the day we tried to aid the poor millwright (I think that is the correct term) looking for the miller who owed him money: “Have you checked at the inn?”  “I thought I heard he was over at the green.”  We trust to each other to remember our stories of connection, to work with “green umbrellas” or giant mallets, and to combine our purposes to benefit each other and our patrons.

Sometimes we flub at our improvisions (I said “turkey” when I meant “goose” when asked about our year end gift from our very generous landlord), but our fellow actors catch us and take the line and dance away in another direction…”yes, Lord Leicester is a generous landlord.  I did receive a fine goose last year as gift.” Another takes the lead and moves along the line –  “He is a generous lord, yet he is in need of a wife.” I redeem myself,  “He had a wife, god rest her soul, but the Queen is reluctant to let him go from her side.  How is he to find another? And he needs an heir!”

We also trust that our patrons will enter our world and play with us.  We set the stage and invite them in.  I’d like to think that the four teenagers who visited us in the afternoon as the Queen was progressing through the crafter’s guilds will remember how we brought them into the play, asking them to describe what we couldn’t see from behind the loom, over the hedge or behind other patrons.  They got caught up in the drama of the moment, providing us with a running commentary of the dresses of the ladies in waiting and the looks of the courtier’s faces.   They became part of our household for just a few minutes, but they knew that they were part of us.  That is what makes it so much fun to work these faires – bringing the patrons into our world of the 16th century.

So.  Enough words.   Here are some lovely photos from our Villager leader, Mistress Constance Dyer, aka Claudia Laughter.


She caught some of the moments of this faire to share with others.  Enjoy them.  (Here is Claudia’s complete set.  If you are looking for great costume images, this is where you want to go!!)

And remember that you can come and experience this faire next year!

Spinner Margret (aka, Aunt Magaidh)

Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 6, 2011

Frankendress…It lives!!!!

For those people who have been patiently waiting to see the modifications I described in my  previous blog, here they are.

Frankendress lives!!!

This picture shows the basic dress with 2 different sleeve treatments.  On the right, you have the English sleeve that ties on with handmade lucet cording.  On the left, you have the Irish sleeve that hooks on with hidden hooks.  Yup, I made the dress convertible!  All I have to do is wear a leine instead of smock, kertch instead of coif, and put on the Irish sleeves and then I’m dressed as Spinner Magaidh of Iain Abrach MacIain.

So, do you want to see the details?  Of course you do.

Here is a close up of the English sleeve for Spinner Margret Greene.

English sleeve with the cuff turned up for spinning (or warm weather).

And then this is the Irish sleeve for Spinner Magaidh:

Irish sleeve - attached by hidden hooks on the underside!

Now let’s look at the front where I had to make a 3 inch adjustment.  I had to cut off the dipping front and straighten the waistline.  I opted to not take in the seams yet.  I’ll wait until I lose another couple of inches.  Notice the buckling/wrinkling of the underarm area.  That shows that I have to make the adjustment at the seams next time I adjust this thing.

The bodice with offcenter front opening closed with hooks.

You’ll notice the lack of trim or decoration.  There was much discussion about trim with the costume maven of the English faire that I am participating in, and for which this dress was originally made.  There is some disagreement of what kind of trim I should use because of the “station” of Spinner Margret.  Since we’re unclear about where exactly I fall (not a contract/cottage industry spinner, not a wealthy merchant, but a rising artisan/artificer) and what my means are, we thought it best to hold off on the trim.  I think there may be some couched cording in the future, perhaps a simple tablet woven trim.  More discussion before it can be justified for Spinner Margret.  But then there is the Scots Spinner Magaidh…I’ll be talking with my guild costume goddess about what she thinks is appropriate for someone travelling with the Chief’s household on trade negotiations.


Next  is the skirt with cartridge pleating…oh, yes – I had to tighten the pleats before I pinned it to the adjusted bodice.  Oh, yes, I had to attach the skirt to the bodice with two rows of stitching (the outside and the inside layers).  Yes, it took forever.

Cartridge pleating that I had to tighten up before reattaching. Not fun.

So, there is the major modification project for the summer.  I might knock out a new skirt in the next week so that I’ll have another option, especially as faire gets the skirts dirty pretty quickly.   But now I’m focusing on birthday cake to take to the next faire.  After this project, I think I deserve it!

Aunt Magaidh

P.S. – if you want to see Frankendress up close, look for me at Ardenwood Renaissance Festival in Newark (September 10-11), Much Ado About Sebastopol (September 17), or Folsom Renaissance Faire (October 15-16).

Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 2, 2011

Modifications Galore…Oh, the pain.

Do you remember that big sewing project last summer?  This fall, I have the rare privilege of modifying the outfit I wore only once.  Oh joy.

Okay, the reason for the necessary modifications is good.  I lost a few inches.  Turned out that by June both of the dresses I made for faire were huge on me.  (But really, I did such a good job with all that HANDSEWING!!!)  It just wasn’t pleasant to realize that the new garb was not right to wear.  So…

After much procrastination…in July…I finally marked the 3 inches that I needed to take in on my English kirtle.

Then I let a few more weeks pass.

August I pulled out the sewing machine and ironing board.  I hemmed a couple of curtains for a friend.  I thought about how to modify the bodice to fit the smaller me.  Procrastination is a well honed talent.

This week, I ran out of time.  I only have 2 weeks before I have to wear the kirtle for Much Ado About Sebastopol (, and I need to do a test run before that.  It meant that I needed this ready for Ardenwood Faire, Sept. 10th (  I consoled myself.  It would be my birthday present to myself: a well-fitting new outfit for faire.

I pulled out a smock.  I crossed my fingers (and toes) and put on the corset.  Husby laced me in.  It just fit, completely laced closed.  I could breathe easily in it.  Heck, I could even eat in it.  But I was thrilled that it wasn’t too big.  I pulled out the kirtle and put it on.  I checked the marking of how much I needed to alter it.  It was do or die time.

I pulled out the seam ripper and …silently screaming… took out the two rows of handstitching holding the cartridge pleated skirt to the front hooking bodice. It took about an hour to remove all the tiny, consistent, stitches from the front and back rows.  (Just thinking about it makes me tear up.  But at least I did all the stitch removal while testing the corset out.  Yup, movement was unrestricted and reasonably comfortable.)

I took a break and allowed myself to wallow in the grief I felt at removing the stitching …and let the fear mount…

I  picked up my seam ripper and took out the row of hooks and eyes on the left side front.  I pressed open the once stitched waist seam.  And then…I lay the bodice on the cutting surface and sliced off a wedge on each front at the waist.

Fear…cold, hard, weighty fear.  Had I sliced off too much?  Would it look all right?

Well, I really didn’t have much choice.  I figured if I lose/gain/lose weight, I have to be able to adjust the bodice for changing measurements.  I couldn’t just take in a midback seam, I had to make the front adjustable.  I’m going with an off-center fastening bodice closed with hooks, like in View C on page 64 of The Tudor Tailor.   (

Gone is the dipping front.  Now it is a straight waist bodice.  I am adjusting the skirt to accommodate the overlapping bodice.  The cartridge pleating got tightened up  a bit more.

I’m about 1/3 done restitching the skirt to the bodice.  When I’ve gotten the bodice reattached, I’ll replace the hooks and eyes.  (Remember, you alternate them so they don’t come undone as easily with movement – tip from pg 51 from The Tudor Tailor).

And, yes, I’ll post pictures when I’m through with this torture exercise.


Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | August 21, 2011

Um… what do you mean it’s school again? Really?

The end of summer is imminent.  School starts for Daughter on Wednesday.  I’m in shock.    I don’t know how it got this late in the season!  Let’s just say that this summer was not on my agenda.  It totally missed my calendar.

Let’s start with June: First, the weather has been goofy.  Wearing my cool season clothes doesn not make for summer fashion.   We squeezed in  going to one Renaissance faire in June (Valhalla Renaissance Faire) where it was damp and cold one weekend, and mild the next.  This was followed by my annual root canal adventure and dental diet.

July was about the busy-ness at work that made me yearn for weekends that were overbooked and filled with projects that never seemed to get started on time or finished as expected (or not even finished yet).  I did get some spinning done.  I got some fiber sorting done.  I did get a couple of knitting projects finished.  Okay, I guess I was more productive than I thought.

In the beginning of August, our summer family vacation suddenly appeared when I was ready to curl up into a little ball of stress, with an extra scoop of tweaking my back.  Off we went for a week  in Oregon, checking out Crater Lake one day,

Magaidh and Daughter and Crater Lake

little historical towns a couple of days, met some alpaca (Alpacas at Lone Ranch – who make some lovely fiber (that Daughter then cajoled me into buying to spin and knit something for her)

Magaidh and new alpaca friend

and finishing with a couple of days checking out Southern Oregon University for Daughter.

Daughter standing in a gate at SOU

Yes, we visited Harry and David’s store and loaded up on lots of good local brews and ciders, but better yet, we found some fabulous eateries:

Taprock Northwest Grill in Grant’s Pass has some fine food at decent prices.  Loved the oysters, while Husby had a major love affair with a BLTA, and Daughter had a burger.  Beer was good!

Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR.  Cheese, Grommit!! REALLY good cheese.   (   We bought a couple pieces of two of their blue cheeses – the original and the smoky one.  Yum!  Then these guys pointed toward Jasper’s Cafe for burgers…

Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek on the highway going to Crater Lake. GET THE BERRY PIE.  NOW!

Jasper’s Cafe in Medford, OR.  Yes, meat may be murder…but it is tasty, tasty murder here!  People are great and friendly and helpful.  John the owner made sure we got the name of a good breakfast place in Ashland.

Laughing Buddha Rice Bowls and Boba Tea, in Medford.  Really nice people and a fix for our kind of comfort food while travelling.

Munchies in Ashford.  We went here twice in 2 days.  Nuff said.  Just wish I’d had enough room to order the pies that looked good in the dessert case.

Larry’s Cakes, in the basement, in Ashford.  They have some FABULOUS cupcakes.  Go look!!  I went with Celestial Rose and loved the creamy filling surprise it had.  Next time we’ll try more flavors!

Morning Glory, Ashford, OR.  We stopped here before going on the campus tour.  Large servings, great atmosphere, big mugs.

The Black Sheep Pub – Ashland.  Thank goodness.  Good food.  We went for “elevensies” and walked out stuffed to the gills with British breakfast, Scotch egg, scones with clotted cream and jam, and good, strong, black tea!  We’ll go back for their specials nights when we return to Ashland.  Maybe for the aerial rope night or darts or Spotted Dick…

But onward…we’re back to the urban life and pace.  Last week, Daughter registered for her senior year at high school.  I’m catching up on work left on my desk at work.  There’s a bunch of sewing I have to do for a faire in a few weeks. Oh, and I volunteered to help with my high school class reunion.

We still have a few more weeks before autumn comes.  Yes, let’s see how much summer we can pack in!

Aunt Magaidh

Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | July 3, 2011

Summer? How did that happen?


It’s been darned busy.  Breathe.

As sad as it seems, I’m glad it’s July already.  The end of June brings an end to all of the school committments, the whirlwind of activity as plans are made for the warm weather season, and a sighing settling down into the heat of the summer.

Now, I’m not good in heat.  I get a love of fog from my father’s genes – a native of Humboldt County.  But July is my target this year for transitioning to summer.

Fourth of July is our annual berry picking day. It is a day begun in fog, packing the family car with ice chests and tupperware and snacks and sunscreen and towels and hats.  We leave the house to meet at the Phipps Farm in Pescadero.  10 ish –  Mom time.

(Definition:  10 ish, Mom time:  It is the time that you hope that you will arrive at the destination to meet with the others of your party, but are given 20 minutes grace to accommodate the last minute crises that occur as you herd the kids out or turn back to the house to fetch forgotten necessities or gas up the car or hit the atm for cash.)

Actually the trip to Phipps Ranch is a tradition for Husby and me, pre-parenthood.  We started going there as we started our life together as a couple, looking for ways to celebrate our togetherness without having to adopt our family traditions,but creating our own.  We invited friends to join us.  It was only a few at the beginning.  But now over 20 years, we just remind all the friends and extended family that they are more than welcome to join us in a berry patch to pick purple black fruit and then go to the beach for a picnic.

The picnic is a potluck.  We pool all the coolers together, empty baskets, bags and boxes and share whatever is spread on the blankets and towels.  There may be fruit, olives, chips, sandwiches (usually not quite potluck as they’ve been custom ordered at the deli in Pescadero minutes before), pies, cakes, cookies, salads and other tidbits.  Ants are flicked away from the hoard.  Children (now mostly teenagers) take up one part of the the perimeter.  Friends catch up a little while lounging against sand banks.

Then we drift off to the tideline to find treasures.  Tidepooling is to the left among the rocks of the cove.  Anenomes in lime and teal and purple may be spread open like exotic flowers or closed up tight like in underwater blobs.  Hermit crabs scramble out of sight hoping to avoid curious fingers.  (Once we saw a dead leatherback turtle.  It was huge – as long as our loveseat in the livingroom – and drying in the sun.  It made us sad to see such an ancient creature lifeless on the shore, but we were enthralled with its complexity and awed that we come from a planet that has such creatures in it.  )  We cheer as the pelicans fly by in waves or dive to catch their lunch.

Then around 2 or 3, we gather the remnants of our repast, our carpools, our energy and head back to the cars and the Bay Area.  Some people have plans for fireworks in the evening, some of us have to get our precious berries home for processing.

Some years the annual trip results in glistening jars of purple jam.  Dozens of jars.  The harvest of prickles, dust, bug bites, nettle stings if I were careless in the picking.  This year should be one of those years.  Washing and measuring fruit, pectin, and sugar begins the process.  Then there is the boiling and stirring and watching to avoid scorching.  This is followed by the arranging of clean, hot glass jars and digging lids out of the water bath.  Then the messy pouring of what looks like blue-black-purple soup into jars.  Finally…the musical popping pings as the caps on the jars sealed with vacuum…the careful arrangement of jars in a box in the pantry, a hoard to parcel out over the year to keep summer alive.

So, you people who check in on this little blog, are all invited to join us this year.  It is the most casual of gatherings – no hosting, just whoever comes is meant to be there.  Come join whomever else comes for our little gathering.

What:  The annual ollallieberry picking at Phipps Ranch.  (You can also pick strawberries, or buy dried beans they raise there,  or shop for local produce.)

Where:  Pescadero, California.  Here’s the link for Phipps Country Store and Farm,  Google your directions.

When: 10 am, Mom time.  We hang out in the store/aviary/nursery for about 15 minutes before heading out to the fields.  If you are closer to 10:30 or 11:00, come out to the ollallieberry field and look for us.  Yell “Kat!!  Ben!!!  Spinner Maggie!!!”  Someone will yell back.  I’ll be wearing a hat and a purple shirt.

What to bring:  Something to keep your berries cool after picking.  A picnic lunch.  Water, water, water.  Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.  Clothes to layer or peel off depending on the weather forecast and reality.

Have a happy 4th of July.  Oh, and mind the CHP checkpoint they set up on Hwy 1!

Aunt Magaidh

Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | May 31, 2011

Magaidh missing in action?

Yes, it may have seemed like I’ve disappeared, but no I’ve just been sucked into a whirlwind of activity.

There was the school play that I helped with…that took me from February to mid-May.  Pictures will be shared soon, I promise.

The following week there was preparation for Daughter’s junior prom.  Everything was going smoothly until we checked the dress.  Apparently she had a growth spurt in the preceeding couple of months and we hadn’t noticed it soon enough.  Yep, two nights before prom we discovered that the dress didn’t fit anymore!  Wednesday night we hit three stores, she tried on 36 dresses, and we bought 4 of them to take home and check with the rest of the ensemble.  Craziness.  But on Friday night she looked spectacular in her new dress.  Yes, pictures will be shared.

Then there was a weekend of Saturday having fiber fun with my friend Vonnie, followed by a Sunday rehearsal for a historically based Renaissance faire and a family reunion – in the same day.

Then there was last weekend going to Disneyland to watch Daughter and her classmates perform with their band, choir, and orchestra at the Disneyland park and California Adventure park.  That was four days of travel and park hopping.

Now, fresh from unpacking from that trip, I am packing my bags and baskets for going to Valhalla Renaissance Faire in South Lake Tahoe.  That will be two weekends!!  The first weekend I’m teaching a couple of wool spinning classes for the patrons and hanging out in the guildyard.  The second weekend I’ll just be hanging out with my guild and cooking and spinning.

But first – this Thursday evening I’ll be doing a spinning demo at Bancroft Middle School in San Leandro as part of their Empires of the World event.  This is when the kids show off their Medieval to Renaissance research projects.  It’s a blast to see what they come up with and it’s always fun to show the kids how to make yarn.

Anyway… that’s why I haven’t been blogging lately, but soon, very soon, I’ll be writing something about what’s coming up with the faire season!

Aunt Magaidh

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