Errant Easel — Haberdasher’s Edition

The Errant Easel celebrated D3Z’s birthday on March 16th with a tea party and excursion into miniature millnery. While I failed to capture the spread of finger foods, the aroma of lavender lady grey tea, or the discussion of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate finale on film, I thought I would still share the fruits of my fascinator labor with followers of the Easel.

ImageAs an ardent lover of steampunk and one with a passing interest in recent royal matrimony, I have had a lot of time to think about fascinators and the kinds I would like to sport. I have considered several formats and favor the mini top hat above all. Whether it is tall, asymetrical, feathered, or goggled I find these hats both sharp and jaunty. The more stylized the better, in fact.

For this project, however, I created a hat that settled somewhere between pilgrim and witch that was anything but puritanical. My influence was really from a booth I visited at a renaissance festival years ago that featured these beautifully crafted leather hats that curved back like a witches hat and were adorned with brilliant plumage or brass goggles. I initially started to mimic my memory of these hats but once I started shaping I liked the more simple, steep lines that Doug described as “fast.” Using the poster board to form the incomplete conical body of the hat, I realized I liked the nearly parallel planes that formed the bottom plane where the brim would go and the top plane created by not completing the cone. I covered each of the three sections with fabric and glued them together using (most effectively) gorilla glue misappropriated from my husband’s modeling supplies. I trimmed it with fancy black brick-a-brack and used a simple clock face and clock hands for a focal point on the hat. This is where I paused and found it somewhat lacking. Staci suggested I add some trailing fabric using the complimentary maroon fabric cut at a bias to give it a lovely draping flow. I think it really helped bring the sharp line back down a bit so that as your eyes travel up the steep front line they are drawn back down the back of the hat by the trailing fabric. I really loved this idea and always benefit from brain storming and with the Ladies of the Easel.

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Speaking of the other Ladies, I thought their hats were coming along quite nicely! D3Z was creating mini top hat using the red fabric to create a clever, eye-catching ruching effect that added a nice texture to a traditionally smooth design. Staci crafted a more abstract open (Kentucky) blue hat that spouted silver tulle like fire. I think it was somewhat inspired by Effie Trinket and would fit perfectly into a  Capitol Couture collection. If we are lucky, my partners in crime will share their creations as well.

As this mini workshop was entirely an experiment on all of our parts, I kept it pretty simple with the materials using three solid but shiny fabrics that reminded me of different Victorian outfits I had encountered. The bright Kentucky blue reminded me of the blue dress Rachel McAdams wears as Irene Adler in the 2009 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes when she walks from 221B Baker Street to the carriage engaged by Moriarty. A more muted tone of the same color is featured on the cover of Changeless, the second book in the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger. I chose the red fabric because it reminded me of the dress featured on the color of Blameless, book the third of the same series. Finally, I chose the green fabric entirely on the basis of my own preference and what I would like to wear given the opportunity.

Given the chance to do this again, I would experiment with patterned fabric or maybe even stripes if I had the patience to align them. I also thought it would be interesting to layer a lace like fabric over a matte solid color. I would also plan my centerpiece more carefully with greater pizzazz or even blend the steampunk elements with more natural influences. On a more technical note, I would be more judicious with the application of glue as it tends to bleed through this type of fabric, leave unsightly stains, and relieve you of your fingerprints if proper precautions are not taken.

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Errant Easel Reviews: Tim Akers’s The Horns of Ruin

The friend who lent me The Horns of Ruin promised me plenty of badass Steampunk fantasy and this book delivered. Horns of Ruin is set in a world where three mortal brothers, a scholar, a warrior, and a leader, ascended to godhood in a war against an ancient race. Centuries later, cults have formed dedicated to the paths of each brother. This tripartite pantheon crumbles when Amon the Scholar assassinates his warrior brother Morgan and is put to death for his betrayal by Alexander, who is left to assume the role of god-emperor of mankind. Amon’s cult is disbanded and cultists imprisoned in their own library of knowledge by the Morganites.

Centuries later, the cult of Morgan has dwindled to but a few who have been largely relegated to ceremonial roles. Eva Forge is the last child to be dedicated to the cult and finds herself the final paladin of Morgan to battle along side the elder Fist of Morgan, the aging leadership of the group. Eva is tough and no-nonsense, brandishing a magicked sword and gun, always reasoning as a warrior, which in this case means acting instinctively even if not prudently.

At the beginning of the adventure, Eva accompanies her elderly Fratriarch on a puzzling and secretive mission to consult a young Amonite prisoner named Cassandra. On the return escort, the three are beset by undead bionic automatons, by which a plot to end the Cult of Morgan is revealed, the young Amonite is able to escape, and the Fratriarch is kidnapped.

The most interesting fantasy aspect of this setting is the paladin’s recitation or invocation of historical feats of courage, stamina, speed, or armor that Morgan utilized in the key battles of his life and now grants to his cultists when they invoke him. This is when promised badassery is delivered. In one scene, Eva is investigating the disappearance of another elderly member of the Fist with a peculiar proclivity for gardening. As Eva tracks the movements of a battle, she winds her way through dozens of slain assassins with peculiar wounds. At the end of the gruesome trail lies the body of her elder clutching a small garden implement, implying that the aged warrior had taken dozens of assassin lives with nothing but his invocations and a trowel prior to dying a confirmed badass.

While I have only touched on the fantasy aspects of the novel so far, the Steampunk aspects were important as well. While the reanimated assassins were kind of like zombies they also required a mechanical aspect leading me to describe them as automaton-like. Also, the city of Ash seemed to be a Wonder of Steam which relied tenuously on the work and research of the imprisoned Amonites, masters of technology.

While the story was an extremely fast paced unraveling of conspiracy and false accusation, there were some really interesting hints at backstory that teased entire other fascinating stories that I would like to read, Eva’s backstory in particular. Why was she dedicated to a dead god? How was she trained as paladin? What were the members of the fist like when they were younger? There were hints and light explanations of each of these but the stories would be so cool, I’d love to see them expanded. In the meantime, I highly recommend giving this book a chance. The setting is cool, the theology well-developed, and the narration feisty and noir-ish. I definitely plan on checking out Tim Akers’s other books, two parts of a trilogy The Heart of Veridon and The Dead of Veridon.

On the Easel

It occurred to me last night that there is so much zucchini in the world and not enough time for zucchini bread. In other words, I have before me so many raw materials and ideas but also a great difficulty in deciding where to start. While on vacation, I stocked up on some beautiful beads on sale to add to the hoard and returned home to a pack of clock parts in the mail from the great and bountiful land of eBay. I also have more squash and zucchini than I have freezer space thanks to my father’s garden. Every year, he sends me home with more produce than I can process (he provides so you know he cares). The zucchini comes with the expectation that it will be partially returned in the form of zucchini bread. After about 20 aliquots of shredded zucchini and four quart-sized aliquots of chunked zucchini for soups and pasta sauces, I still have half the zucchini and all the squash to go. Oh the squash… #farmworldproblems.

Pushing the (mountains of) squash aside for a moment, I wanted to write a quick preview of things to come on the Easel. Here our a few projects and features in the works:

On the personal Easel:
-A Growing Leaves Cowl designed by Meghan Macko in Old Lilac Baby Llama yarn
-Book Review of The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers
-Steampunk and other Jewelry sets
-A character study of the Milner protagonist in my (theoretical) Steampunk novel
-A personal zucchini bread recipe And my experiments with modifying the recipe to support a healthier lifestyle

Collective Efforts and Features in the works here at The Errant Easel:
-An Errant Easel Excursion to the Woodland Arts Festival here in Lexington, KY
-A knit-along workshop in sock-making led by our resident expert D3Z
-A resin casting party for high through-put creativity
-The Errant Easel Book Club’s take on original Sherlock Holmes stories

Keep checking back for updates on these and other creative endeavors. Also, if you have any crafts, books, movies, or events you would like to read about here, please let us know in the comments! We would also love to review your work or event and spread word to our readers!