Realistically, I’m aware that my first blog post for this page should probably be an “about us” documentation, or an introduction of some sort. However, since I’m entirely uninspired to write such a post, I thought to get myself moving and avoid continuous procrastination, I would choose something I felt motivated to write.
Road to Renfaire
Anyone who knows me for more than a day is acquainted with the considerable impact medieval and fantasy movies and stories have had on my costume and film career. In fact, the behind-the-scenes videos by WETA on the extended edition DVDs of the Lord of the Rings were the gateway. The production design and craftsmanship for a genre of film I love so much allowed me a window into a career reflecting my loves and interests. Since then, I’ve added 18th Century and the Regency Era to the top of my loves and interests in design, but nevertheless, my dire love of Fantasy and the years encompassing the medieval era has never lessened.
So why on earth has it taken me this long to go to a Renaissance Festival?
Perhaps because of the fact that my activities generally only alternate between sitting at a sewing machine or being on set (or napping), I barely spend time scraping the surface of the internet. I’ve never been one to care about the stigma around dressing up and faires – things that the general majority of society judges before experiencing. I’ve cosplayed for years, and while cosplay is a popular aspect of pop-culture now, it definitely hasn’t always been. So it isn’t as though I’ve been nervous about attending a Renaissance Festival, but strictly didn’t know when or where.
So one day on set, toward the end of Supernatural Season 14, when Samantha [Smith] was talking about the weekend of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire she regularly attends with her family, she asked if I had ever been. We had spoken before about sewing and costume making in length, but when she told me about the event in Irwindale, I was more than excited. Sounding like something completely up my alley, I was definitely interested. Plus, after being in a rut of having no motivation to sew (or more accurately, finish) a costume for myself, I found myself more driven to sew than ever.
The reason I wanted to learn to sew in the first place, thirteen years ago, was to make Elven dresses. Have I? No. I fell into the well of making superheroes first and have been preoccupied swimming in that water ever since, without any tug from another source to pull me out. This was the perfect excuse to start sewing what I have wanted to construct for so many years. I always need an initial push for a project, and Renfaire was just that. I had sewn historical costumes before, but not in length or with as much passion to continue as I would have liked.
So, as a thank you (and as a reason to sew more for the event), I offered to make Sam’s dress. She wanted a washed blue linen, which while I love, I’m glad I managed to locate a weave and press that did not resemble a denim. I’d made enough Jedi robes to know the problems faced when using a crinkle-style cotton, but I wasn’t truly prepared for the difficulties of this particular linen. After it was washed, I needed to do an initial iron, cut each piece individually, iron those pieces, then recut. The fabric also had difficulties holding structure, which added to the fun. Luckily, the facing made for the upper lining allowed for a structure. As much as it was finicky, it really was the right look and color, and therefore totally worth it. I adorned the dress with brass eyelets, and a beautiful medieval Church Vestment Jacquard trim from Heritage Trading.
While I had found her fabric at a local store, I had spent the previous day in the states at Joann Fabric with my wonderful mother in search of fabrics I could use to make the dress I had designed for myself. After buying nearly six yards of every linen they had, when I returned home I decided to use the mustard yellow for my project. It also helped that the maroon Jacquard trim I had already purchased from Heritage Trading on etsy was the perfect match.
Before making the outer dress, I knew I needed a shift of sorts, or undergarment. I know over the next year I’ll be making a collection of them with various designs and sleeve variations, but I just needed one for Renfaire. Luckily, at IKEA in the clearance zone, was a 100% cotton, off-white flat sheet with two pillow cases. And with that, I made my shift. It gathers at the top with a brown fabric braid, which allows for a wide or narrow mouth for off-shoulder or boatneck looks, and the sleeves are an open top with the same brown braid for tie up. Finished with French seams and antique gold eyelets, it’s comfortable, washable, and packable! And it really has an array of uses.
The project was put on hold while I went to Phoenix for my 300th Episode Dress Shoot (a blog post I’ll be writing soon), but I only had five days between returning from that trip and the LA Renfaire trip. Needless to say, I was back at the machine only hours after I landed back home. I quickly finished what was left on my dress, again with the handy use of French seams. On the day of the festival, I paired it with my shift, and an incredible necklace by Elven Star Design given to me as a gift by Samantha.
Sewing for Renfaire wasn’t finished yet! Originally, another friend, Osric [Chau], was going to join us at Renfaire, so I offered to sew him a simple outfit as well. I chose to make a dark green linen tunic, with a natural linen puff sleeve shirt to pair, adorned with a beautiful chestnut trim from Celtic Trims on Etsy. He didn’t attend, so the tunic was never worn, and instead we used the shirt on its own to dress Talli, my partner in crime for the event. While the shirt was oversized for her, with a bit of finagling, we made it work, and she fit the part. The shirt was made using a medium weight natural linen from IKEA, which sells for only 2.99 a yard! Since it was so wonderful to work with, I bought 12 yards. I plan to make a lot with it. Clearly.
All garments were sewn with a Singer One sewing machine, and Singer overlock machine.
(To read more on the faire, visit their website here)
No matter how many pictures I looked through on Instagram and Google, nothing could prepare me for the actual festival. First of all, the size is magnificent. Incredibly theme-decorated tents and booths of various shops, stages, and games line a long, winding dry dirt path leading to the Jousting Arena. Every inch of the walk provides an experience. Not only is the venue perfectly fitting with its view of the Sante Fe Dam Lake, but with the magnitude of posters, flags, woodwork and other design elements, the festival truly invites you to another world, to a degree for which I wasn’t at all prepared. To enhance the visual experience, there are several NPC characters and actors throughout the faire grounds: bible pushers, wenches, acrobats, knights, queens and more. Then there is the aspect of costumes. Nearly everyone at Renfaire is dressed up to some degree, whether it’s inspired by medieval, Renaissance, Tudor, or fantasy. Everyone has their own take on costumes, and together the look of the crowd is wonderful. I could probably go into lengthy detail about their brewery selection, if I in fact drank or had participated in utilizing the offerings. That’ll just be something you read about on someone else’s blog. There was also a magnitude of coffee offerings however…
What I did participate in, as a spectator, was jousting. Really this was something I was looking forward to the most before the event, and it did not disappoint. Talli and I went twice, and it was just as exciting the second time.
I certainly utilized the amount of vendors throughout the path. The first thing I picked up was a yellow wool cavalier hat that perfectly matched my dress! What are the odds. How could I say no. Not steps away was a crown and circlet booth. Having looked for accessories in the category, I walked away with three of their crowns. I’m sad they don’t have an etsy or online store, but my bank account is for the better. Their work is beautiful and I can’t wait to pair it with more upcoming costumes. I also purchased some brass Celtic knot brooches from Bad Hatter, which I already have plans for as well.
I really hope to return to Renfaire next year, if timing allows. I say that as if I can plan a year ahead, which isn’t true. Here’s to hoping! I loved it so much, I would be chuffed to attend again. A shoutout to Samantha for the recommendation, and to Talli for enjoying the experience by my side!