abendgules: (maciejowski)
Getting anywhere on a bank holiday weekend is a nightmare. How did I manage to forget? blocked out more like.

It took 3 hrs to reach House Pologrinus on the south side - more than 2x the usual journey time. I was very very close to turning round to go home from Farringdon stn (2 hrs into the trip) when the train arrived. I hate travel on long weekends.

However, upon arrival matters improved: I was visiting to take part in this year's apple pressing towards cider-making. After guzzling Vitus' cider last year I told him to sign me up for pressing next year.

Sure enough: 250kg of apples, just from friends' backyard trees. At least 3 different varieties, plus a selection of pears too.

Apple pressing is a lot of fun. Doing nearly 6 hrs straight of apple prep is less so.

Child labour: this didn't last, but was a help while it was there. Washing apples before quartering and checking for worms.

Ozbeg grinding apples (2x through) as Vitus adjusts the press.

Very, very glad of 2 burly men to crank the grinder and the press - possibly harder than it's typically worked, to squeeze every drop out.

Kat, Isabel, Ozbeg and I were fully occupied washing, quartering and (sometimes) grinding apples, loading crushed apple into the press, and unloading post-crush mush to the composters. The composter full, we just piled it in the yard. We got a lot of wasp attention, but it was benign compared to the wasps at Raglan this year.

The juice we got was a nice middle sweet flavour, not sugary sweet like my memory of fresh pressed sweet cider from Ontario. V judged it'll give a 6% cider, and we pressed out 100L of juice into 4 containers. He set it to ferment with champagne yeast, warmed and 'started' for a few hours first.

V doesn't do anything by halves...

He fed us with homemade scones w butter and jam, and then homemade pizza made on the BBQ (lacking a pizza oven).

This was also the weekend to say goodbye to HG Daille and the kids, while Sir Jonothan stays another few weeks til after Michaelmas.

Vitus & Isabel are planning on Estrella war next year and it sounds like a household push is on.

After the morning's mess of commuting I was very grateful of a list back to the city with Kat and Ozbeg.
abendgules: (Romanesque_Initial)
Slow start to today. I blame the weekend.

I spent much of the weekend trying to get quills to work, again.

I have successfully cut and used quills in the past for calligraphy. What I realised after watching some footage of someone use a quill on BBC, though, is that my quills are quite stiff - the footage showed a very long nib flexing beautifully as the writer's hand started to draw the pen downward into a straight stroke. And I realised that while the stiff quill nibs work, a softer nib might work better.

Looking closely at my nibs, I realised my pens were getting short (ie getting closer and closer to the feathery bit of the feather), where the hollow tube of the quill gets thicker. So my nibs were thickening, possibly adding to their stiffness.

I grudgingly hauled out my supply of quills and looked through what I had to hand.

I'd dried quite a number of quills at least two? three? years ago during my last round of quill-keenness, and had started cutting them, but not used them. So I pulled them out to see what kind of shape they were in.

The answer? Brittle, that's what shape they were in.

However: they are long, and much thinner-walled than my working quills. So I've set aside my previously-working quills, and even thrown one out(!), in favour of working to develop thinner-walled, flexible nibs....

Cue a great deal of trimming, scraping, scooping, poking, testing, and cursing.

Some notes:
- quills are handed (winged?) so that right-wing quills sit best in the left hand for writing and vice-versa.
- they are also not perfectly round, they're oval, and the oval shape means you should check how the pen wants to sit in your hand, *before* cutting the barrel. It's clear now that I'd not taken this into account in my earlier attempts, which would explain why I found it hard to keep the earlier quill at the right angle, when it wanted to sit differently in my hand.
- I'd taken a cue from Mistress Caitlin de Courcy about how she cuts her quills - rather short. She has a steady supply of swan feathers from birds in Edinburgh, which gives her a selection of quite large-barrelled quills. My own supply isn't quite so plentiful, and so with narrower barrels, I may have to cut my nibs differently.

....well, might have just found the source of some of my problems. Should have RTFM earlier...

The manual in this case is Edward Johnston's book about Writing Illuminating and lettering. Johnston is responsible for the 'revival' of calligraphy as an art at least in England. It's a huge book, and I've extracted pages 51-85 which are mostly about pens, positioning, etc. Pp 51-60 is about cutting quills and reeds.

I just realised...I've been trimming the points of the nibs the wrong way, sloping the wrong way. No wonder the damned things didn't work. I wrote one scroll 3 times, cursing the whole way through two, because the pens weren't working smoothly. I had a deathgrip on one to such an extent my forearm is still sore today.


I feel like an idiot.

Ok, well, that answers my questions about getting quills to work. Move along, nothing to see here.
abendgules: (hot choc comfort)
Thanks to several months of enforced inactivity, I'm feeling uncomfortably round, and had an unpleasant encounter with a measuring tape recently.

So I'm resolved to get out of the office at lunchtime more often for walks - daily isn't too often - and I'm considering drastic measures, for me: Saturday Candy.

I encountered this at Crown this year in Nordmark - that some good Swedish parents still limit their kids' intake of junk to Saturdays. I'd never heard of something so, so, so....sensible. Sheesh. (Especially when the Western world is staring an obesity epidemic down the gullet - how do the Swedes manage it, when everyone else is so helpless?)

So I'm seriously thinking: I don't eat a lot of candy, but I do like biscuits, particularly at work. I do like a sweet to follow dinner, of some kind. And I don't know if I can follow through, when my beanpole-shaped-sweetie noshes down on his treats in the evening. Could I actually follow a Saturday Candy rule?

(I'm painfully suggestible, I've discovered. Don't remember this always being the case, but by god, if I'm reading about someone enjoying a pot of coffee, all of a sudden nothing short of a pot of coffee will do...similarly when someone says 'I'd love a cup of tea' on TV, etc.)

I was put in mind of it (see? suggestible) by a BBC food article about a family giving up sugar because of a daughter's Type 1 diabetes.

I know a few people who avoid sugar, but why would you substitute dextrose for sucrose (shown in one recipe)? It all turns into sugar in your body, doesn't it?
abendgules: (fierce)
After carefully texting me 3 times to let me know when my delivery would arrive, and confirming a 2 hour window for today, my mattress delivery arrived....3 1/2 hours late.

Delivery window was 7-9am, which I thought was keen if it was coming from Wembley (could be some monster IKEA-zone elsewhere, don't know), because that would take a van straight through north London at rush hour to my door.

Got a call at 8.30am to say sorry, it'll be 1 and a half hours late. HOW late? One and a half hours.

Got another call at just after 10am to say sorry, it'll be 1 and a half hours late.

This time I asked, how is it you're late for a 2 hour delivery window, by more than 2 hours? The guy said sorry, I just got on this truck.

They finally rolled up at 12.30. The delivery guys did not look keen at the prospect of taking my mattress up the stairs to the living room and said they weren't allowed to take it out of the packaging - this apparently meant that they handy handles were inaccessible, making their job harder for them. They damn near left it on the bottom stair, but I asked them nicely to try once more. It made it up the stairs, with only one hole in the middle of the cardboard from the newel post.

I paid £50 for the privilege of staying home today - staying home the whole day, as it turned out - to wait for this.

I'll be writing a letter (audio not entirely safe for work).
abendgules: (clothing)
So in the end, I dropped about £100 on patterns. Partly to get hold of the patterns, partly to support the reenactor-gone-pro industry.

I'm now the proud owner of:
Observations - note that I have not yet unfolded and cut these out, this is just from fondling the packages and reading the notes.

Margo Anderson's patterns are on conventional modern pattern paper, the thin stuff that tears easily. However she suggests ironing it to some cheap fusible interfacing for the pieces you'll use a lot, which is smart.

It's a huge package - several different variations on tabs, sleeves, collars on the doublet, and two types of venetians, as well as paned hose and canions.

The package includes a printed 3-hole punched book - kid you not, it's about the size of the Known World Handbook. It's huge, and has some excellent technique instructions. I may write to her to suggest moving it to a CD for printing - it's fortunate I have a N.American 3-hole binder that fits 8.5x11 paper.

The RH pattern is on heavy paper, with a handout on styles, and a handout with instructions. I can now see how a novice stitcher could really struggle with the instructions. Aside from the outlines, there are no markings - no dots, notches or reference points anywhere on the outlines.

In this case, it's a pattern for the bodice only - you're given instructions for skirts but no outline. I can see the logic though - most skirts are just rectangles, so you need directions, rather than an outline.

The Tudor Tailor pattern package is very heavy, because the patterns are on a coated paper, with a waxy side and a non-waxy side. These come with a handout based on the instructions in the Tudor Tailor book.

As it turns out - I won't have a new outfit for my sweetie ready for Crown - life has conspired against me, and it's just not ready. The hose are a mess - I'm really unhappy with the way the back seams spiral around his legs - I suspect the fabric being off-grain when I cut it, but I couldn't see the grain on black fabric, cutting in evenings, in our under-lit living room. Argh.

I'm going to try again probably with new fabric, this time with 20 year as a deadline, and hopefully spring, longer days, and better health will support me in the completion.
abendgules: (prickly)
Have spent most of the day getting to know Win8.

Had a bad moment when I thought the Enter key was busted, already (it's behaving oddly in the visual editor in LJ). And another when I couldn't find my transferred files. I'm very glad I bought an external HD at the same time, which saved me a whole lot of time.

Still have to figure out how to make a backup of the Windows installation itself. It claims you can re-install from itself, but I'm not certain I believe it.

Also used some recommendations from lifehacker to download some freebie options - open office, VLC, a PDF reader, picasa - to make life easier. I think I'll break down and re-organise my pics with Picasa.

I alternate between really valuing Google's tools, and hating the empire they are becoming.

Some early impressions:
- the primary assumption of Win8 is that you live to shop, and to share, online.

Obviously some people do. So Windows 8 is a great enabler of all this. To use most of the default apps, you need to get a Microsoft account. Without one, you can't use the Store, though which you Buy Stuff, because of course, you bought the computer so you could Shop, and Share, right?

There are commercial apps too - Netflix, Amazon, eBay, games. Things innocently labelled 'Music' and 'Video' and 'Games' point straight to Xbox. I thought it was bad enough loading a browser full of default links, but this arrangement takes it to a new level.

However: If you don't set up an MS account, most of these apps just become so much memory wastage, that *you* have to remove from your startup screen. Argh.

On top of that, half of them don't tell you what they do - you can't even right-click to view their properties, or the readme file. You're either supposed to try them (first one's free, little girl....) or else already know what things like 'Evernote' do. Still haven't figured that one out.

So the context and clues I used in the past to figure these items out are gone, and I'm left feeling stupid.

- the second assumption, or maybe the joint primary, is that you're online, all the time.

From long struggles with my last machine, I was careful about when I decided to go online, and very fussy over what tools had permission to access the outside world. This assumption that of course I'd be online, how can you function away from the Intawebs? another annoyance.

- the Win8 behaviour will take getting used to, which may be why the 'desktop app' is still available - without it, some people would have given up Windows entirely.

The app interfaces themselves are stripped back to bare minimal commands, so you can see more of the screen real estate. Good idea, except it raises a somewhat desperate feeling in me of where the *hell* did you put all my previous browsed windows? what do you mean I have to scroll through each one to get to the one I want? Where are my favourites? Where's my search? WTF? hell with it, gimme the desktop... and so on.

At the same time, the 'desktop' version of the browsers look dated, blocky, plain, like we've slid back to 2005 or something, except all the *useful* bits I had handy back then, like Favourites and Internet Options, are hidden so I have to hunt them down...

- the arrangment of files in my C drive is suspiciously similar to the arrangement of Sharepoint.

I've only just started using Sharepoint, and it's a very powerful suite. But I hadn't realised that basically it had colonised Windows, because that's what it feels like. (No it's not surprising that two products by the same mftr have same layout, but still.... S'point is *not* an intuitive product!)

SO: I'm sure I'll learn this verison, just as I learned all the others. It feels like going from Win 3.1 to Win95 though, where the familiar was swept away and you were left with a barren screen and a single button marked 'Start'.

This time you're faced with a screen packed with tiles with unknown purposes and powers...and *no* Start button.

I swear they do it on purpose.

To see it for yourself: [livejournal.com profile] htroup's recommendation of Scott Hanselman is very sound. He's now done a longer intro for non-geeks, but it's the same info.
abendgules: (Romanesque rules)
I've long avoided gilding, partly because I love calligraphy best, partly because of the esoteric ingredients list. Slaked plaster is just the start of the weird-ass stuff you have to collect to create true gesso, that creates raised gilding.

In my long-term avoidance, I've collected every other imaginable form of glue (gum arabic, gilder's malt, gilder's milk from Oriane, improved body size, acrylic gesso, white glue, and most recently miniatum), putting off the inevitable. You want something sticky? I got it (ok except hide and rabbit skin glue, but I got fish glue).

No matter: I'm determined to 'get' this stupid gilding thing, or at least have a go.

So I order my dental plaster - costs more in shipping than in materials, and probably have three lifetimes supply.

Can I find distilled water, anywhere, in this world capital, in any of its myriad shops, chemists, pharmacies? Of course not. Apparently it no longer exists, having given over shelf life to Bach remedies and aromatherapy.

You can get 'purified' water (not sterile, no explanation of how it's purified, but about £5/5L), you can get de-ionised water for same price, smaller quantities.

But distilled? no go. Apparently noone does ironing anymore, nor are there wet-cell batteries.

I have some purified water left from previous search (where I gave up and settled for purified H2O for mixing gouache), so I set up to test out a 30-min slaking process (also required Ph strips, which no pharmacy I can reach stocks either - one staffer in a pharmacy suggested a stationery store. Hunh? Thank goodness for eBay). 

AFAICT, though, I've failed...and instructions lie like a cheap rug. 30 mins? Um, no.

The instructions are to basically to start with high-quality plaster (Cennini's month-long soak is to remove impurities in part); soak the plaster in more water than it needs, keep stirring to keep it from setting, drain off excess periodically, and add more water, repeat 2-3 times, til Ph shows neutral, same as original water (which you checked).

Being concerned not to run out of my purified water, and not wanting to overflow my bowl either, I think I skimped on the first 'wash' of plaster, and as a result I now have not one but two containers of soggy plaster mix that won't set. And almost no purified water left.

Not a rousing success. Read a lot about Ph over the day, the dangers of distilled water (don't drink it, unless you're being poisoned - really); and now have plaster sludge to dispose of, somehow. Argh.

ETA (20 December): adding the 30-day challenge tag to this entry, as a prologue to my project. This was my first attempt at gesso.


abendgules: (Default)

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