Saturday, September 22, 2007


Aaron and I are in Lincoln City, (it's near Santa Claus) for Rendezvous at the Bridge, an SCA event sponsored by the Shire of Riviere Constelle (aka Evansville, IN). Aaron decided that we didn't want to say in the Lincoln State Park cabins, which turned out to be a pretty good decision since it was over 90 degrees today, and doesn't seem to be getting cooler. I love this extended summer, but I'd love an extended 80-something degree summer even more....especially when I'm wearing Viking clothes.

All sorts of things go on at an SCA event. The fighting - combat wearing more-or-less real armor but with wooden swords - is the big sexy highlight that everyone notices. Most of the younger men and quite a few of the women fight, but one of the nice things about Rendezvous is that there are all sorts of other activities going on.

Including this. This gentleman from Ohio brought this bird for a falconry demonstration, which caught the interest of the SCA people, the regular park visitors, and all of the naturalists. How often do you get close enough to a falcon that you could reach out and touch her? (Not that anyone would want to reach out and touch something with a beak and talons like hers, but the owner did let people hold under his careful supervision.)

One of our favorite activities is the hound coursing. In the Middle Ages, rabbits and other prey were released and chased by sighthounds for spectators' amusement. At SCA events, a plastic grocery bag tied to a string is released (and run through a course with pulleys and a drive wheel), and the hounds are at least as amused as the spectators. A lot of the SCA hounds are retired/rescued from dog racing, but any dog can participate. Oscar hasn't tried coursing yet, but Max proved to be a natural, displaying a strong coursing instinct at his first event. Unlike the greyhounds, who usually make one run, Max would be happy to run all day - the luremaster usually gets tired before he does.

Here, an Italian Greyhound is about to be released by Her Royal Highness Aislinn, Princess of the Middle Kingdom (the SCA's regions are "Kingdoms," each with monarchs chosen by combat). Traditionally in the SCA, the greyhounds course for the Queen's enjoyment, and the Italian Greyhounds are the Princess' pack. That's the luremaster on the left (with the lure powered by a very non-medieval car battery), and at his cry of "Tally ho!" Aislinn will turn the little dog loose so she can chase the plastic-bag lure.

Lincoln State Park isn't very dog-friendly (they're allowed in the park, but can't stay in the cabins or enter any buildings), so we didn't bring ours, since there wouldn't have been any convenient place for them to spend the day. But the more serious coursers (who, I should add, also generally do a lot of really good work with greyhound rescue) brought their dogs, so there were plenty to go around. Aaron was the biggest guy there, so he was asked to keep an eye on Bruno, an 85-pound puppy who looks like a hound/bear crossbreed.

"Hold your Hounds!" is the command heard over and over during a morning of coursing. These dogs love to run, and so even the little ones have to be restrained when it's not their turn to course. As soon as the lure starts moving, all the dogs start barking and howling and begging to join in the chase.

Normally, you wrap a harness around the dog's chest, straddle him, and hold on tight. But Bruno was too tall for Aaron to straddle, so he'd have to be picked up to keep him from running. And he turned out to be smart enough to discover all of the different ways a dog can try to squirm away. Aaron probably got a harder workout than he would have from spending the whole day hitting people with (and being hit by people with) big sticks. But Bruno was a magnificent courser. I can't wait to see what he looks like when he's full-grown.

I spent the rest of the day on more sedate activities, including teaching a class on fingerloop braiding. I first learned how to make these braids when I was in high school, when the DMC-floss "friendship bracelets" were popular. Later I found a very similar technique in a Piecework article on Japanese loop-manipulated braids, and then learned that there were English texts from the 15th century on with instructions on how to make all kinds of loop braids. My student and I have our feet up because the braids are worked under tension, and that's the easiest way to hold one end.

So here's a scan of a few braids. From the left, the first two are basic 5-loop square and flat braids. Then there's a 4-loop spiral braid, and a striped variation of the spiral. The three-colored braid is the "Grene Dorge" or "Barleycorn" braid, which I teach as a combination of the techniques learned for the first two types of braids. The last two are my teaching samples from the class, and change patterns midstream; so the first is both spiraled and striped, and the green one has square sections, flat sections, and sections with two skinny braids.

Further textile indulgence came from the merchants' area in the form of a new spindle. All of mine are either too heavy or too light for spinning knitting-friendly yarn, so even though I've been trying not to shop, I couldn't resist a visit to the Driftwood Spindles booth. (There will be a link here as soon as I find a good address!) This gentleman makes spindles from all sorts of intersting wood, and in an Ollivanderesque visit I handled many of them until I found the perfect one - 30 grams, with a whorl and shaft of something exotic. Others were more aesthetically pleasing, but this one felt perfect in my hand. An extra dollar bought me an ounce of naturally-dyed corridale wool, so I sat down to play.

Almost every SCA event includes an feast, and this one offered an especially tasty example. I put the spindle and other projects down long enough to dine on beef and noodles, roast pork with apples, spinach salad, mushroom tarts, and Russian cream, all made more enjoyable by the park's delightfully sensible policies on bringing in alcohol. Next week I look forward to Coronation, with more craft time and more tasty food, but, alas, no wine. I'll have to break out the white wool.


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