Resolution to Sketch

The silence on this blog has been extremely protracted due to the Move That Will Not End.  For the past few months I have been spending my time in three different locations, with most of my belongings inaccessible.  I’ve been slowly working on fixing up a small cottage on a friend’s property, where I will eventually be able to set up house, but given my health problems and the volume of repairs needed, it has been extremely slow.  Still, I am very happy that I am capable of doing such work at any pace, which would not have been possible even a year ago.

So many months with no art is not emotionally good for me, so I have purchased a tiny sketchbook and small graphite pencil tin that will both fit in my purse.  I may not have the left-over energy or easily portable/available supplies for full-scale finished art pieces, but I’m also woefully out of practice, so resolving to sketch just about every day seems like the best solution at the moment.  I had originally intended to do a sketch every day, but I’ve never been the sort of artist to fill sketchbooks, so that’s honestly not a reasonable expectation for me to have for myself.  I just don’t find it interesting enough.  If I manage better than every other day, I think I’ll be happy with myself, and I’ll be able to get back into practice with drawing so I can start making polished art pieces again.

Tiny Sketchbook: Graphite Tree

Tiny Sketchbook: Graphite Tree

This is the first sketch in my sketchbook, which I created on this past Friday.  It’s not even remotely as refined as my past work, but it is just a sketch, which is something I have to keep telling myself.  Sketchy sketchy.

The plan is to get out the sketchbook and do another tonight.  Saturday was something else entirely (for another post – Henna tattoos!), and Sunday I was too beat from Saturday to accomplish anything.

Radio Silence – Moving

Sorry for the radio silence.  I have some more spoonflower fabrics ready to release, some photos of one of the Viking hoods I’ve made recently, more items to photograph, and a host of writing projects I would like to be working on, but all of that has had to take a back seat to moving from Las Vegas back to California.  Moving is an exhausting experience under the best of circumstances, and though I had hoped to at least keep the fabric releases coming, I have not found the energy for any of it.

Though I am expecting the exertions of the move to knock me on my as for at least a month after the move is complete (mid-March?), I am hopeful that the change of circumstance and scenery will reinvigorate my artistic endeavors and motivation to write.  Hopefully that will be accompanied by enough energy to do the things I want to do, because the chronic fatigue symptom still kicks my ass on a regular basis.

Only time will tell what I will manage to accomplish, but be sure that though I might still be quiet now and again, I will always return.

Breaking Radio Silence

I’m very sorry for the radio silence in recent months.  As any long-term followers of my work are aware, my health can make my pace of work rather slow, and sometimes unpredictable.  I did a lot of things in the early part of 2016, enough so that I severely burnt myself out and set back my healing by a significant amount.  That resulted in nearly four months of debilitating fatigue and extremely low activity.  In the past few weeks I’ve finally been starting to feel more like I did before wearing myself out, so I’ve been trying to put energy into the adulting things that have been ignored, like house cleaning.  It’s slow, and nothing my readers need to know about in detail, but I have been moving fairly consistently again.

I have worked on a couple things during those months, but I have not been able to get good photographs of the first one, another hand-sewn Viking underdress.  Fingers crossed that I’ll manage it in the next couple months.  I did take some good detail photos of inserting a skirt gore into a slash by hand, so I will be able to write a short tutorial on that.  The second project is another Viking hood on which I am doing experiments, and I’m not sure if it’s turning out OK or if it’s ugly as sin.  I will post photos when I’m a bit further into it and you’ll be able to see what I am attempting.  Fingers crossed that that one turns out decent looking when it’s done.  I also did a small amount of weaving, which I should photograph and share with you as well, whenever I get around to that.


Some Workshops!

On September 24th and 25th, I will be at Collegium of the Desert teaching four different classes.  It’s an SCA event, so medieval costume and theme all around.  These are all classes I have taught before, but I needed to make new kits and I significantly revised by Basics of Opus Anglicanum article.  On Saturday I will be teaching how to pattern and make t-tunics and tunic dresses, and how to hand sew seams, both in the afternoon.  On Sunday I will be teaching Elizabethan Freehand Blackwork in the morning, and Opus Anglicanum embroidery in the afternoon.

This means I hope to restart the Opus Anglicanum stitch-along very soon.

This week I’ve also been revisiting the Spoonflower fabrics and blackwork embroidery designs.  I have sold only a handful of pieces of the first two prints, so I decided any commission I make on Spoonflower fabrics will just go back into buying samples of more prints.  Over the summer I did set up and order samples of nine more fabric designs, five of which work great as they are, and four of which had to be revised because they had too heavy a line weight to easily embroider over.  I’m also looking at how to digitally create more detailed blackwork designs for more dynamic fabrics, wallpaper, and giftwrap to use as-printed.  The next fabric design is already publicly visible, so if you want to go take a look you can find it here.  In the very near future I will be making a post highlighting just that fabric, and I hope to release a new fabric every 1-2 weeks thereafter.


So, in summary, downtime is dull and results in nothing interesting to post, but I’m back on the mend, so I hope to have lots of new things to share with you in the months to come.

Blackwork Embroidery Patterns – Six More Transcriptions

The past couple weeks my health has been in a state of forced downtime following just far too many big exciting events spaced just barely far enough apart for me to manage to do them, but not actually fully recover.  I’ve also needed an extended break from hand sewing, and have not had the wherewithal to start a new embroidery project.  Since I hate being completely idle, that means I’ve been poking away at transcribing some more blackwork embroidery patterns, in part as an exercise to get more familiar with how to use a bamboo tablet pen to draw digitally.  So, I present to you, six more Elizabethan design transcriptions for your reference and use.  (Well, technically five Elizabethan designs and one Tudor design, but who’s keeping track?)

I am providing all of these designs for personal use, free of charge.  They are also available for non-profit educational use, provided I, Sidney Eileen, am given credit for the transcriptions.  If you do make something using or inspired one of my designs or transcriptions, I would love to see your creation.  Please share it here, on my facebook page, or tag me in a tweet (@Sidney_Eileen), instagram (@sidney_eileen), or facebook post (@bySidneyEileen).  It’s the amazing things all of you do that inspire me to provide resources like this one.

These patterns and any others I have posted can also be found all in one place on the page, Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Patterns.

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern, transcribed by Sidney Eileen, from a Portrait of Henry VIII

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern, transcribed by Sidney Eileen, from a Portrait of Henry VIII

Portrait of Henry VIII of England c. 1537, Hans Holbein, the Younger (detail) -,_the_Younger,_Around_1497-1543_-_Portrait_of_Henry_VIII_of_England_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg


Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern, transcribed by Sidney Eileen, from a Portrait of Mary Hill. In the portrait, the knotwork grids are completely consistent, but the manner in which they join is not, and no single visible join is clear and consistent within itself, so I created a join that was similar to a couple of them and created a consistent repeat pattern.

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern, transcribed by Sidney Eileen, from a Portrait of Mary Hill. In the portrait, the knotwork grids are completely consistent, but the manner in which they join is not, and no single visible join is clear and consistent within itself, so I created a join that was similar to a couple of them and created a consistent repeat pattern.

Mary Hill Mrs Mackwilliam 1567 -


Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Panel, transcribed by Sidney Eileen

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Panel, transcribed by Sidney Eileen. I wasn’t sure what the little black squigglies were supposed to be, so I left them off of the transcription.

1580–1620 Panel of Blackwork, silk blackwork embroidery on linen fabric, in the collections of the Met Museum.

1580–1620 Panel of Blackwork


Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Unfinished Coif, transcribed by Sidney Eileen

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Unfinished Coif, transcribed by Sidney Eileen

Unfinished Blackwork Coif from the beginning of the 17th century.

Unfinished Blackwork Coif from the beginning of the 17th century.


Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Coif, transcribed by Sidney Eileen

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Coif, transcribed by Sidney Eileen

1610-1620 Blackwork coif with spangles, from the Glasgow Museums Collections. Silk blackwork embroidery on linen fabric.

1610-1620 Blackwork coif with spangles.


Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Jacket, transcribed by Sidney Eileen

Freehand Blackwork Embroidery Pattern from Extant Jacket, transcribed by Sidney Eileen. If you look at the detail from the extant jacket, no two barberries are exactly the same. There are differences in the leaves and the little spirals that prevent uneven gaps and white space. If you use this pattern in an all-over manner like the original jacket, keep that in mind as a technique for filling space, rather than adhering perfectly to this pattern on every single repetition.

1610-1620 Jacket Blackwork Embroidery Detail, from the Museum of London Collections

1610-1620 Jacket Blackwork Embroidery Detail


Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along Update

At mid-October, it is significantly later than the mid-August restart date I had originally hoped for, so I wanted to let everyone know that I have not forgotten, and I am still intending to restart the opus anglicanum stitch-along.

The biggest reason for the delay is that I have been doing significantly worse health-wise in the past two months than I was expecting and I frankly haven’t had it in me to work on a structured, weekly project with a blogging commitment.  The happy reason for the delay is that a friend provided me with more research material, which I want to review so I can provide you more accurate and detailed information.  Another reason for delay is that right now the 2015 medieval embroidery stitchalong is happening over at, and if you enjoy stitch-alongs and medieval style embroidery it is well worth joining in on.


Project: Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along

Health Update – August 2015

While it is undeniable that I am feeling markedly better than I have in years, and that I am managing to work on projects again, and even do a little informal teaching, the biggest question on my mind has shifted to: Am I capable of resuming work?  And if not, how far am I from being able to work?  I know I am not the only person wondering this.  I have had some inquiries about commissions in recent months, and comments online from people that are hopeful I will re-open business soon.  On top of that, to say that things have been a struggle without me providing income for my own upkeep would be an understatement, and it’s been sadly indicative of how far I am from being able to work that I have been absolutely incapable of consistently managing simple chores around the house.  I will get there, but progress is slow.

While I was working on the fully corded corset project last month I had comments on my FaceBook page marveling at how quickly it was coming together, when the reality of the situation couldn’t have been more the opposite.  For me it was a very painful reality check regarding what I am actually capable of managing.

The project was intended to be a new corset to show off at the 2015 North American Corsetry and Lingerie Symposium, which I attended as a teacher.  I have only ever made four corsets for myself, and of those only the two underbusts still sort-of fit anymore, so I wanted to have something nice to wear.  I had intended to start the project well in advance of the symposium, and I had a clear concept in mind more than a month ahead of time, but I had a couple fighting jackets for friends I was trying to finish before starting on the corset (which also are still not finished) and I was dealing with a symptom downswing that landed me mostly on the couch again.  I finally threw my hands up at the jackets and started on the corset a little more than two weeks before the symposium in order to have a prayer of finishing it before a hard deadline.  To add to the problem, I had the dates mixed up and thought I had three weeks before the symposium.

The fully corded corset is not a simple corset in terms of design, and it is admittedly a time-consuming construction style.  Even when I was well and working, this one probably would have taken me the better part of a week, working eight-hour days, to finish.  During the time I actually spent working on it, I think I managed to work at a fairly respectable pace.  It was managing to work on it that was the biggest problem.

The greatest barrier I have to working is the chronic fatigue.  It really is a productivity killer.  I do have a little more energy more often than I used to, but during those two weeks I still had days when I got absolutely nothing done, including a three-day span of complete inactivity.  I had very little time to finish the project, so I made no attempt to do any household chores because that was a direct trade-off for energy I could spend trying to finish the corset.  I didn’t even bathe as much as I should have, because it is also a direct trade-off to be able to do something else (admittedly, this is a trade I make more often than I would care to, and it’s horrible when I make that trade and then hit a few days where I have no spoons, so nothing gets done and I still don’t bathe).

Corded Hybrid Corset - WIP5, by Sidney Eileen

Corded Hybrid Corset – WIP5 – I finished cording all the panels! I had barely prepped enough cord. You can see the small coil of remainder. Thank goodness I pulled all the cord I thought I would need and then pulled a few more yards just to make sure! I could have washed more had I run out, but I’m glad to not have to go to the trouble. This puts me at what I estimate is the halfway point of the project, two weeks in.

If I am putting all my energy for the day into one thing, I just zone out on that one thing and try to ignore all my symptoms, including the fatigue.  Mentally and emotionally I am prepared for the remainder of the day to be just resting once I have worked on that one thing as much as I can.  There is a lot that I can ignore, including the early stages of fatigue setting in.  If I wasn’t able to ignore a lot of my symptoms I never would have been able to continue working until 2011.  That means I ignore symptoms and keep pushing along until I reach a point where I hit a metaphorical brick wall.  All my spoons are spent, and I find myself staring dumbly at whatever I am trying to do, lost in a confused state of mental and physical mush.  Occasionally after I realize I’ve been staring into the void for a while I can refocus and manage an extra few minutes of work, but it’s never much, and odds are good anything I try to do after that point will turn out poorly, or completely ruined.

I think the average amount of time I managed to spend productively working on the corset on any given day was about 2 hours.  Some days I only managed a half hour or forty-five minutes.  On one miraculous day I managed nearly six hours, but that was followed by the three days where I got nothing done, resulting in less overall productivity than if I had worked two hours each day for those four days.

The month since the conference has been busy for me, with travelling, a friend visiting from California, dog-sitting, cooking for an SCA event, and a lot of down time following on the heels of those exertions.  I’ve been back to napping frequently, barely managing any household chores, have done very little hand sewing, and managed no embroidery.  I haven’t touched the sewing machine since the conference.  I haven’t managed to work on any art (though I very much want to).  I still need to finish those two fighting jackets I promised to friends, I’m trying to finish Viking garb for Diana, hoping to start Viking garb for myself, had a friend beseech me to make her some Italian Ren garb for 12th Night this coming winter (which I would love to do, but doubt I can manage), need to restart the Opus Anglicanum embroidery stitch-along, have promised custom bras to a couple friends who desperately need them, and need to work on the promised corset pattern modification tutorial.  Those are just the big projects!  I have also promised patterns to a couple different friends, want to do some more calligraphy and create a set of award scrolls for the Barony of Starkhafn, would love to make some medieval shoes (because I sure as hell can’t afford to buy them), would love to pick weaving back up, make some assorted small bags to hang from belts, and start a large Opus Anglicanum project.  I’m sure there’s more, but those are what are coming to mind right now.

Before I got sick I could have worked a full-time job, figured out a time-table to be able to complete all those projects simultaneously, been able to make paintings and drawings at the same time, and also still meet with friends regularly.  Instead I think I’ll be lucky to finish Diana’s Viking garb (though not decorate it at all) and one fighting jacket in the next month.  I’ll also hopefully resume the stitch-along.  Mind you, I think there is maybe ten hours of actual work left on the fighting jacket.  Time is definitely not my problem.  The ability to use that time is.  On the bright side, this time last year I wouldn’t have finished anything, so there is definite improvement.  It’s just not enough improvement for me to be able to get a job or resume taking commissions.  Instead I’ll just keep plodding along as I am able, working on personal projects, and looking forward to the day I can resume working.

Lucy Corsetry Interview and NACLS

The North American Corsetry and Lingerie Symposium happened on July 18, 19, and 20.  I was mistaken about the weekend when it was happening and had to pack in a rush to head out the door for the symposium.  The corded corset did not get finished, and I have barely done anything with it since.

That said, the weekend was absolutely amazing!  One of the biggest highlights for me was meeting Lucy of Lucy’s Corsetry in person.  Most of you probably know her because of her site and YouTube channel where she shares her wealth of knowledge about corsets, corset makers, and corset brands.  For me the connection is much more personal, because when I announced I was sick she offered to run a funding campaign for me to help pay for me medical expenses.  The campaign was a success, and without it I am fairly certain I would still not be able to take the antibiotics I needed because all of my expenses have been out of pocket, without any help from insurance.  At the end of the weekend we had time to film an interview for her vlog.


In other news I met lot of other amazing people, and had a fantastic time.  In the classes learned a new technique for pattern matching from Amber Welch of Lovely Rats Corsets, an interesting method of draping a ribbon corset so it does not have a side panel from Jasmine Ines of Sin and Satin Corsetry, and learned more about ready-to-wear corsetry from Jessica of Ties That Bynd Designs, Inc.  On the second day of classes I also got to prattle for several hours about hand sewing and embroidery.  I was tired enough by that point in the weekend that I had trouble staying on focus and on topic, but despite my issues I saw a lot of ah-ha moments, which always makes me happy.

Zessina took a number of candid photos on the first day of classes.  These first two are from the pattern matching class, where we were using tracing paper to pattern match across panels.

Photo  of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

Photo of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

Photo  of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

Photo of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

I love the fabric I ended up with, but I didn’t get far enough along during the class to cut into it, so at some point down the road I will use one of my own patterns and that fabric to make a corset using the method Amber Welch taught.

Floral Cotton Print Fabric

Floral print cotton fabric I received at NACLS 2015 for the pattern matching workshop.

Lastly, I want to include a candid photo of Zessina the photographer, model, and all-around delightful person who took the candid photos above.  Here she was trying on one of the Lovely Rats corsets with the assistance of Amber Welch, ahead of the photo shoots that happened the next day.

Photo of Zessina and Amber Welch, NACLS 2015

Photo of Zessina and Amber Welch, NACLS 2015

Later that same day we also had a fun corset trying-on session, where any of us who were interested got to try on the corsets various makers had brought with them to the conference.  Some of the corsets from Ties that Bynde were close enough to my measurements to try on, so I did so with delight.  They were a little too long for me to sit in (a very typical problem for me with ready-to-wear corsets), but otherwise delightfully comfortable and with a much larger reduction than I currently have on any of my personal corsets.

The next NACLS is tentatively planned for 2017, and I’m looking very much forward to it.  I hope to see more of you there! :)