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24 August 2008 @ 01:55 pm
Griffin Needle Challenge  
First of all, thanks to all of you who came out to the Griffin's Needle Challenge. It was an amazing time and, while I am still not fully unpacked nor caught up on sleep, I am already looking forward to next year.

I got to site Friday afternoon to do the initial walk-through and plan the precise layout of the hall. I had a general idea of how I wanted things to look, but I could not remember exactly how the electrical outlets were distributed and I wanted to be reasonably equitable in providing juice for the teams. This turned out to be something of an irrelevant point, since 2/3 of the teams did not use sewing machines at all. However, I settled on a giant U across the back of the hall so that each team had access to at least one set of outlets, lots of space, and still could see all of the other teams as they worked. The other end of the hall was divided into thirds: food area, movie area/Eithni's command center, and ironing center. (I had one attendee who didn't like the policy of a separate ironing center so far from where her team was based, but I think that is an important safety consideration and, if the event grows, a good way to avoid circuit overloads and other disasters.) There was a separate air conditioned room for sleeping and a lobby for use as a Troll/commons area. I started unloading my car and setting up the little, light stuff so by 5PM when several set-up helpers showed us, we were able to quickly set up the remaining tables and larger items well before the 6PM opening time for gate. (Thanks to damej, berzerker_prime, shavasue, and others!) It turned out that 6PM was probably a bit early to have gate open as most teams were still on the road and even the local teams were still gathering their stuff to get to site.

I really would have loved to use a site in/closer to Madison, but the demands of the event made that difficult. (Let me know if anyone finds a site with a large cement or hard floor, lots of outlets and sturdy circuits, that allows us to bring in food and is available on weekends for cheap. :P) The two biggest problems with the site were the heat (since there was no AC in most of the site) and the stoopid people who were there for the charity walk. I had been warned by the site people that they had rescheduled the walk to our weekend because it had been flooded out earlier this spring, but they had billed it as a relay walk that would have a steady by modest stream of people just pass by the front door on their route... Not hundreds of people who kept wanting to come into or walk through the building, regardless of the signs telling them not to do so, the dozens of cars parked in the lot we were supposed to have exclusive use of, and the loud, bad band playing into the evening. Frustrating. We eventually just locked the front doors unless there was someone at the gate to monitor the situation since the walkers were apparently illiterate and rude. :P There still were a few that seemed mystified that the doors wouldn't open, no matter how hard they tugged. *headdesk* However, they were locked outside and therefore not our problem.

At 9:45 we had five teams on site, the rules were read and the competition began. A few hours in, the Calontiri team came in, bringing the final total of teams to six. We had, at one point, ten teams signed up but we had lost several to home purchases and assorted other Life., plus one no-show team. I was slightly disappointed in the lower attendance, but as it was pointed out, it is a first time event, so hopefully we will grow next year. This year's teams were: We Have a Notion (men's 15th century English), Mother-Daughter Mayhem (women's 16th c. Italian), Persian Griffins (male AND female 16th c. Persian), Apprenti and Friends (women's 16th c. Russian), The Gilded Lilies of Calontir (boy's 14th c. English), and Equestrians and Company (women's 14th c. French).  (Team names and entries from memory... I'll look it over again to check for accuracy when I've had more sleep.) Some people stayed up the entire night, others took advantage of the sleeping room or simply the floor by their team and passed out for a few hours. I was particularly pleased that of the six teams in attendance, only two used machines for their garb, but the Persian Griffins were making garb for two people with only five team members (Master Gevehard was on their team, so he counted as two team member equivalents and they were not allowed a sixth body) and the Mother-Daughter Mayhem team was just that - only two people and it was the mother's very first event! The other geek-pleasing detail of the event was that the teams all chose wonderful fibers for their projects - I only saw one cotton I wished had been a linen (primarily because the rest of the outfit made such good use of linens, silks and brocades) and a "linen" that I have my doubts about. It seemed that all the teams were having fun, there seemed to be only minimal team friction and I was not aware of any meltdowns. I was something of a failure at taking pictures, but that was in part because I knew shavasue was there and recording it for posterity. I did snap a few with my phone, though, so here is a quick shot of the last few minutes of sewing insanity - note the nifty, nearly-finished outfits and the gigantic mess explosions. :)

I had warned the teams that I was instructing the judges to score pretty conservatively - I dislike competitions where everybody gets all eights, nines, and tens and there are tears if they get anything lower. We set the scale so that a five out of ten was a "B" - something to be happy with and about what we expected to see out of a team competing in that division. A seven was meant to be a "A" and reserved for really excellent work, whereas a 10 was to be reserved only for extremely rocktastic, knock-your-socks-off work. There were six categories in which the teams were scored on a one to ten scale: Documentation, Materials and Methods, Workmanship, Fit, Completeness of Outfit (i.e. how careful were they to plan a full outfit and accessories), and degree of Completion (i.e. how finished were they at Needles Down). The seventh category was Judges discretion - essentially up to ten points the judge could award for whatever reason they thought appropriate. I was happy with the judging - we seemed to hold to that scale well, with most teams scoring a total in the mid thirties to low forties, depending on the division. I don't think we awarded any 10s at all, and even 8s were relatively rare but I was OK with that. I was usually the "mean" judge, scoring about 4 points below the average but there were "nice" judges who scored 4-5 points above the average and we were all pretty internally consistent, so the averages worked out. I did, however, abstain from judging the Apprenti and Friends team. With mightyjesse, jinglymushroom, devikat, ilaifire, lostvirtue, and my mom all on one team, even if I were to remain objective, it would not look good. :P

In the end, each team walked away with an excellent, usually essentially completed, outfit. I was very, very impressed with a lot of the preliminary work done, but a lot of the teams had difficulty expressing their research to the judges, so I think I'll work up some documentation guidelines or examples for next year. I've also decided to eliminate the requirement to have patterns drafted on-site even in the higher divisions - speed drafting is intimidating and I would rather teams come away with a good experience and a beautiful garment that fits well than a needlessly stressful experience and/or a garment that *almost* fits. We Have a Notion were brave and worked on a handsewing project even though most of the team was newer folks and 1/4 of the team did not show up until morning, Mother-Daughter Mayhem had some wonderful research portraits and remained committed to turning out quality garments even when they realized they would need to sacrifice completing the whole project, the Persian Griffins included great details like makeup and armor, the Apprenti and Friends attempted some really ambitious beadwork but was realistic about abandoning it when they needed to move on, The Gilded Lilies of Calontir attempted an interesting hooded jacket that was something very fun and different, and Equestrians and Company completely rocked with the accessories. Choosing winners was hard, but We have a Notion won the Novice division, The Persian Griffins won in the Intermediate division, and Apprenti and Friends won the Pyxis division. Vivant to those teams and all the competitors!

Clean-up went quickly except that, despite serving leftovers from breakfast and lunch for dinner, there was still piles of yummy food to be distributed or disposed of. relativelylucidalways cooks the tastiest things and had worked hard at feeing us yummy, period, low-stain risk items but the attendance was low and apparently seamstresses just don't eat as much as fighter-boys. ;) Thanks again to all of my staff, from set-up to clean-up everything went beautifully! And thanks to all the attendees, both competitors and spectators! I had a blast and I hope you did too!


Notes for next year:
Cooler time of year or site with AC
Schedule further away from Pennsic
Better guidelines of what we want to see for documentation
Consider eliminating the Advanced division
Allowing pre-drafted patterns
Think about alternate time schedules
Masking tape/glow tape for sleeping room
Bring library - Moda, Tudor Tailor, Stepping through time, etc
Bring a comfy chair for ME
Publish suggestions for documentation
Have teams introduce themselves and their projects at the outset
Introduce judges

Please comment with further suggestions, especially if you attended!
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
robstoutrobstout on August 24th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Sorry I missed the event. Paige and I are on a home improvement kick, and Saturday turned into a painintg day. The good news is that we have ~ 1/2 of the carpet pulled out, and we have some really nice wood flooring under the really scary carpet.
eithni: embroideryeithni on August 24th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
Oooh! Congrats! That's one of the only fun home improvement surprises!
DameJ: CAM25damej on August 24th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
You might consider keeping the original schedule but adding a "Get Some Sleep" division -- teams who enter in that division would have to have their needles down from midnight - 7 a.m. That would perhaps address the needs of those who can't pull an all-nighter but still want the opportunity to score well, without eliminating the opportunity for a geektastic all-nighter.
eithni: snapeeithni on August 25th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Heh. You are ever wise. :P I just offered that option (as "GNC-lite") to Samia over on the poll post.
Julia Springjulia_spring on August 25th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
Maybe those teams could start earlier on Friday, to make up for the time? Our team would be willing to do that.
Eliane/Jennifer: Colleen speaksgflower on August 25th, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)
Something I just have to say: Having half of the judges be complete strangers (to most of us) from another kingdom was a little bit odd. To be judged by strangers is not my idea of fun (realize that I don't like competition AT ALL) and it seemed a little bit like we couldn't find enough knowledgeable people in Northshield, so we had to import some.

I know they arrived in the wee hours, but if the teams had been formally introduced to them earlier in the competition than at the end of the event, it would have gone a long way towards making me feel more comfy with them.

In retrospect, they were all really nice, and it is good for both the event and the autocrat to have people experienced with Golden Seamstress involved.

Also, remember for next time (esp. if it's still during the summer) that we needed the electrical outlets for more than just machines. If we hadn't had that fan on us, I think we'd have been a lot more grumpy. And I believe our boom box was plugged in too.

All that having been said...it really was a very neat event, and our team had tons of fun. Somehow it seems impossible that such great fun and such great garb can come out of a situation of heat/time constraint/sleep deficit/grueling work. It's like a mini-miracle! THANK YOU!!!!
eithni: embroideryeithni on August 25th, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
Actually, we (all six of the judges) did go around and formally introduce ourselves right after they arrived - about 1 AM. Most of the teams were still up and raring to go, but apparently you were one of the team members who was already asleep. :P I guess they didn't make another round in the AM. I saw them talking at folks and assumed they were making introductions as needed.

I'm hoping for either a later date or a site with AC for next year, so hopefully fans won't be as critical. And, considering that we used all of... about ten plugs (not outlets, PLUGS - five for the teams, three for fans, one for the radio and one for the iron) for the entire event, I'm not too worried about it. :P
Eliane/Jennifer: Freyagflower on August 25th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC)
Aaaagh! I chose to go to bed at exactly the wrong time, then. About 1, I was heading off to bed. I remember them moving their bedstuffs into the sleeping room as I was falling asleep.

One of the judges did introduce herself by name to me later on--maybe she noticed that I hadn't been sitting with the team during nighttime introductions.
eithni: froggie crowneithni on August 25th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC)
Oh, and I don't know that it helps, but Duchess Rebekah was the "nice judge" most of the time, so I sure hope she wasn't too intimidating! (I was the mean one. :P) I actually did not know they were coming until about Tuesday, ergo my second trip to Kinko's and my last minute plea for clip boards on the Jara list. It was cool to have some people from the "mother event" there, but I could tel they did not all approve of some of the changes I made and plan to make. :P
quaintessimal: woadquaintessimal on August 25th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the late confirmation, Pennsic detox took us a little longer than expected to get organized.

We had a great time and really enjoyed the teams - amazing jobs done by all.

BTW if you get the same site and relative time next year, I'd suggest fly swatters as site tokens :-P
eithni: embroideryeithni on August 25th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
No problem about the late reservations - I was thrilled to have you - but it just meant I didn't really have a Plan for introductions and did not include info about you in the planning emails with the teams.
Anpliça mka Rachel: illuminated asmlibrarian on August 25th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
I actually really liked the fact that I didn't know 1/2 of the judges. It made the competion seem more fair to me. They were unknown which made the teams feel unknown to them...and maybe made them more objective. At least that's the feeling the Persian Griffin's got! :)
eithni: embroideryeithni on August 25th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
The big thing was that they were experienced judges - they've been doing this for some years and so had experience with the process. I did it last year, but the other two "native" judges were newbies at judging.