Oh 2017,

When I began this blog a year ago, I had zero clues that 2016 held all that it did in store. Re-reading my new year’s post from last January, I had a lot of good intentions – some even paned out! I did make a lot more cheese (aged rounds I’ve lost count of and at least 14 quarts of yogurt cheese between the Rose Tournament, the Pennsic Party, vigil tables, and personal obligations). Some new blog posts made their way to being posted, but unfortunately there are several drafts still sitting abandoned. A lot more 16th century happened, including a dream dress that I had been planning for a while. Some back-logged projects were finished, but not nearly enough. Health wise, I’m 20lbs down from the initial goal of 50, so that’s something. And most excitedly, I learned new things. So, yay.

And now its a new year, with some old goals. Some willing, some now looking forced. ((((((((And here our intrepid blogess hangs her head in shame.))))))))) Confession time, most of my elevation dress was hand sewn. In an effort to keep seams looking tidy, linings supporting the way they should and constructed in a period manner, all while being able to get a closer fit and retaining my sanity with a sewing machine I usually give the side-eye to  –  I chose hand sewing. In addition, 15 of the afore mentioned 20 lbs decided that leaving between Pennsic and Kris Kinder was a good time; this meant I was a tailor’s/seamstress’s worst nightmare. Hence why I chose to make my elevation outfit, because I love my friends and realized that I would have been giving them as much joy in the project as a pair of properly applied thumbscrews. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, hours and hours of handsewing, with wonky joints, and me being an idiot. That’s where I was going! For about a month after Kris Kinder, I couldn’t pick up a sewing project for more than 5 minutes without having something akin to tennis, hedger’s*, or apparently now stitcher’s elbow… Clearly! you laugh as you read, I would have learned my lesson! Clearly,,, not. I thought it had gotten better. I was progressing to do some super slow embroidery on thank you presents for ~20 min at a time, then a couple of nights of 30 min hand sewing on the yellow Rus dress I wore at Coronation; but, apparently after the last night of 45 min hemming – I’m back at square one. Which means, now, those much needed modifications to my elevation gown aren’t going to happen for Clothiers. So please, take a moment to wipe your eyes from the tears of laughter, there is no rush to continue. However, do take note of the moral of this story which is to take care of yourself.

Back to the goals bit….. Less hand sewing and embroidery, sadly. I had hoped on making a couple of Elizabethan wall hangings this year with embroidered slips and various applied work, that has been moved to the back burner. Even more sadly it means that some of the thank you gifts from my vigil and elevation that I had started, will have to be delayed longer. And more Elizabethan garb on the back burner, and, and, and, I could go on in a very grumpy fashion. Positive things that will happen are more past classes and book reviews *actually* making there way on here. With a fairly strange looking spring in terms of scheduling things, events are sadly looking sparse for the first half of the year (fall is looking good though!). Time spent at home, means more time for projects. I still have way too many unfinished projects laying around, so a goodly amount of energy will be prioritized in finishing those. Possibly, a garden might happen this year, with some exciting 16th century foods – but that will have to be a wait and see.

In terms of more exciting new things, after not touching clay for 10 years, I’m playing with it again – thanks to some not so subtle prompting (I’m looking at you Gwen). That in itself is a really good feeling, especially when you feel other artistic avenues have been temporarily blocked. Honestly, I didn’t realized how much I missed it. I’m not expecting anything miraculous to come from the endeavor, but I am looking forward to having a substantial amount of fun while being stupidly excited to attempt to reproduce some of the late 16th century household ceramic finds.

And now to focus on that class bit, I have a class to finish up for Clothiers this weekend!


*hedger’s elbow: a joke made by Alex in either the January or February episode of Tales from the Green Valley, likening the elbow pain from cutting and forming hedges to that of tennis elbow. Yes, the Ruth Goodman prescribed historical medicine of sage oil was used. No, it didn’t cure it; however, it didn’t hurt it, and it felt nice.



So a lot of things have happened since the last post…

That’s as good as it gets as a header, and more true than any other. Indeed, a lot of things have happened since the last post. So many, that I had to go back and re-read the last post to even see what was going on then.

July and August were busy with Pennsic Prep. My goal was to do a late 16th century Pennsic: re-work my stays, petticoats, skirts, and doublet jacket. (This didn’t quite pan out for the entirety of the event and I’m thankful that I threw in a couple of Norse underdresses and HE Mistress Gwen threw in some extra clothes which I borrowed.) Initially the goal was a couple of petticoat bodies, but after several mock ups – I just couldn’t get it right, and I need to do some more work on the fitting at a later time. The stays did get re-worked, and felt great when I tried them on at home. Unfortunately, at Pennsic, the stays didn’t work at all for an extended time. The pattern they are based off of is similar to the stays seen in the portrait of Elizabeth Vernon. Once the stays were brought up to my actual waist line and altered to a more period fit, they hit me at a trouble spot I have across my back which in turn caused me to subconsciously try to inch away from that area; that then caused me to tilt my pelvis in a funny way to ‘rest’ on the front of the stays that had bowed out in the front (there was no stiffened busk) and additional less that fantastic back issues occurred. As it turned out they were also too loose. Once when I laid down to try to get the pressure off my back, I found that I could stretch and nearly move my stays around several inches – that explained why things weren’t feeling all that supported…. So let this be a cautionary tale of corset fitting and the extensive road testing of a pair of stays before you take it to an event – a couple of hours around the house doesn’t cut it. Due to my weird body shape, I’m going to be trying the effigy stays next with the hope that the length that goes over the hips will work better. ——————-But enough about corsets. The skirts and petticoats over the roll worked marvelously. I had my own personal arm rests – it was awesome.

Along with clothing prep for Pennsic, there was also food prep for Pennsic. I had volunteered to run the Calontir Pennsic Party with the theme of Norse foods in honor of Their Majesties. So that meant lots of cheese making, yogurt making, pickling, and baking. More about that later.

Attended events were scarce between Lilies and Pennsic, Lilies took a lot out of me and I’m realizing I’m not the nineteen year old that did living history tours in full mid-19th century for the NPS in 100 degree Ozark summers like I used to – I just can’t do heat anymore. Which is also impacting what I’m planning for clothing for hopefully next Lilies, but that’s another blog post. I was able to make it up to Coronation in the Barony of Coeur d’Ennui, and had a lovely time catching up with everyone. To my utter shock, I received a Queen’s Endorsement of Distinction for upholding the Ideals of the Society from HRM Elena before stepping down.

Then Pennsic arrived. It was an experience. I had a lovely time. It did not feel cooler than Lilies – even though it was. Wow, the people, but also wow, the infrastructure and organization (yes, I’m the daughter and granddaughter of engineers). I’m so thankful that HE Mistress Catalina put up with my exuberance with getting to help 4th Company and aid the waterbearers on the first and last days of battle at Pennsic. We were honored with an invitation to attend both the Boast and Brag at TrothHeim, which was an amazing medieval moment. We also had fantastic neighbors throughout the war, and much hanging out time was accomplished.

I also had a total fan girl moment(s) when I got to see the Attack Laurel. It was a bit like a celebrity sighting, not going to lie. One time, she even smiled a bit at me – I’m pretty sure she was being polite since the grin I had on my face was of someone who wasn’t all there. In retrospect, kind of embarrassing. But I saw her!

The Pennsic Party went extremely well. (We will casually forget about the unfortunate smock that decided to finally die a very visible dry-rot death of tearing between my shoulders and down my back all night.) I had marvelous food donations of delicious baked goods, lovely nut and dried fruit nibbles, as well as some really fantastic skyr. I’m so very thankful for everyone who donated things to the party, as well as my amazing volunteers who helped during set up, tending the tables, and during clean up. There is no way I could have done this thing without you all. To top it all off, Wolgemut came by the party and played a set or two. It was amazing. Really amazing.

But rewind about three hours, Calontir Pennsic Court. Thank heavens I made the good life choice to change from my gross wine and food stained food prep tunic into something decent and 16th century-ish. Before court, I was given the super secret job of standing at the back of court, waiting for the secret eyebrow raise and nod to motion a group from TrothHeim into court, where they would then start some super secret surprise. So that was fun, the super secret surprise ended up being an elevation for Sir Halvgrimmr to the Order of the Laurel for Norse studies – which was super cool. And then they did a call for fealty, which my Laurel Fionnuala went up to since this was her first event this reign. And then she stayed up there. Huh? Well her and TRM have known each other a long time, maybe she is doing some business about the upcoming event her group is having. Context, I’m on the far side of court under the shade-fly where party prep was happening, which means that I can only hear people when they are projecting well or shouting – I can’t hear anything she is talking about. People are looking at me, I catch something about baby bird leaving the nest. TRM say something. I’m really confused, it hits me, I start a blend of hyperventilating and ugly crying; I’m frozen. Thank goodness for Kate, I somehow make it up to the thrones, kneel, a hanky is thrown my way, reassuring pats on my back, TRM being incredibly kind and understanding to someone who is now shaking and exhibiting the early signs of shock. There are hugs, I’m thankfully herded out of court, more hugs. Then the party. It really didn’t sink in until the next day. I was afraid it had all been a mistake, or a really big joke. Or one of those super realistic dreams…. But it wasn’t, and my vigil and elevation to the Order of the Laurel are happening at Kris Kinder.



Here I am attempting to make it into court, a sobbing mess. Photo courtesy of Charles of Westermark.





Their Royal Majesties Logan and Ylva being very kind and understanding to someone only capable of communicating in shaky nods and blubbery gasps. Photo courtesy of Charles of Westermark.


Needless to say, since then things have been super busy and will continue to be busy with all of the things that need to be done -both SCA and non-SCA things. This autumn brings some very necessary home improvement projects as well as some family things that require me to stay close to home. What I’m getting at, is that I’m pretty bummed that my event schedule is looking bleak until Toys for Tots, and then Kris Kinder after that. Hopefully things will calm down after the holidays and normality will resume.

Lilies Decompression

Back from Lilies War 30, and already planning ahead for Pennsic.

Instead of a clueless packing spree before Pennsic, I decided to try something new, and you know, actually keep track of what I used, what I never touched, and what I wish that I had. I’m already working on amending packing lists and realistic expectations to reflect these things.

So the attempt at all 16th clothing for Lilies went reasonably well. For six out of the seven garbed days, I wore peasant class Elizabethan (right off the hay field look). Monday, my stays had failed to dry the night before, my feet had swollen a full size larger so no shoes, and I was feeling less than fantastic that day – so a Norse underdress and veil pined to a headrail it was. Tuesday night, I sat and took the majority of bones out of my stays and they fit much better for the remainder of the war. The commercial pattern that I had altered to make them already required me to raise the waist about 2-3 inches, turns out I need to raise it about 2 more in spots…. The lovely Verena, who also did Lilies in 16th century (1570’s German to be exact), had a fabulous kirtle and petticoat bodies that I want to try out for myself for Pennsic. I’m hoping that they work better for me (and be a lot more accurate to boot).

The attempt at historical 16th century hygiene went less than stellar. I had to abandon the dry cloth cleaning method fairly early due to my skin being too sticky with salt and other ickyness from a day of sweating in 100 degree temps – so basin bathing it was. The historical washing balls were lovely to have and did a fine job at removing the dirt from the day. The clean smock each day thing had a lot of merit as well; my smock smelled worse than I did after the end of each day – yay linen. My hair had difficulty drying out over night, which made the combing difficult. Even with a thorough combing in the morning with both a wide tooth wooden comb and a fine plastic flea comb (I really need to invest in a bone one), the roots of my hair were beginning to smell quite sour and the ends which are still damaged from the past bleaching a bit dry. I failed to have my hair powder properly prepared until Friday morning before the hygiene class, so none of that was used. Also, in trying to keep with the historical thing, I abandoned my normal skin care routine which I am sorely paying for. In order to not burn, I used a strong zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreen. I forgot just how drying those ingredients were to already traditionally dry and sensitive skin, and since I wasn’t using all of the moisturizers had some less than pleasant eczema reactions on my face and neck as well as a lovely case of what looks like hives on my face too due to what I’m guessing was from too much heat ( like seriously, it looks like someone hit me on the face with a hot meat tenderizer)…. So it looks like I’m going back to using modern hygiene at events for the time being…

My classes went well at least. Both the Elizabethan Home Textile Class and the 16th Century Hygiene Class seemed well received. I’ll have the classes posted soon if you missed them.

The first run through of Tudor Tavern Night went fairly well. It felt like feast prep in my kitchen the week before, and we were eating lamb stew and rice pottage in camp for a while afterward due to substantial leftovers. Had some great feedback as well and looking forward for having it at the end of a Day in the Life of: 16th Century edition for Lilies next year with some exciting modifications.

I was honored by HE Gwen with providing food for the Ladies of the Rose Tournament this year. I had a lot of good intentions regarding cooking food on site, but the high temps saw those good intentions go to IKEA for meatballs, flat bread, and cookies. Of the things I did cook, the hard cheeses were salty and went fast as did the olive oil cured yogurt cheese that I tried out. The rose hip lemonade seemed to be a hit as non-alcoholic drinks go, and the candied walnuts were thoroughly nibbled as well. The Lady Aisha (sp?) provided some lovely Tudor Rose stamped butter cookies and some of HE Gwen’s Elizabethan orange marmalade made a tasty appearance as the night progressed. All in all, I’m calling it a success.

This Lilies was fairly jam packed with things: TTN, gate shifts, classes, and the Rose Tourney. I’m hoping that Pennsic will entail not such high temperatures and much more hanging out with people that I missed spending time with. It will be my first real foreign war, and I’m pretty excited to start the event prep over again!

Countdown to Lilies: 17 Days and Panicking…

If I wasn’t panicking before, I am now. Being myself, I was panicking, but now I’m in panic hyper drive. My brain feels like someone has launched a super bouncy ball into a large concrete box, and it’s flying all over the place.

Needless to say, I should be sewing. I really should. But, maybe (just maybe) if I can center my thoughts on what I have done and what is left to do – I can stop feeling like I’m two breaths away from hyperventilating… …So here it goes…

The good news on the sewing front is that the corset that went in the FML pile after it was too big in July after finally finishing the construction of it, now fits… Not really good news, because I’ve gained 10 pounds since then, but as the scale went up the problematic digging in at the waist has decreased by about two inches and the corset (Elizabethan pair of bodies) is much more comfy. So somehow my bust/back measurement increased as my high hip measurement decreased…. Have I mentioned how funky my body is and how much I bitterly hate attempting to fit anything to it? No? See above… But still, this is good news, because it means that I can pin on a pair of sleeves, add a skirt, and put on an apron and I have a serviceable lower class Elizabethan outfit – that I can plausibly wear for the entire war while switching out various aspects…. So yay. Now to finish up the mile of lucet lacing cord, partlet, sleeve options, skirt options, and hopefully a waistcoat – as well as the other late period paraphernalia needed…   I do have my body linens done, so that is a positive. Right now I have a fresh shift for every day, including a couple of new linen ones and some older cotton ones that are on their last leg and will have to be replaced before Pennsic. New coifs are made too (still need cording to tie), so those will be lovely over a headrail and under a straw hat. I have a couple of finishing touches to put on two aprons, then they will be done.

Linen tub

Linen tub for Lilies War, fresh headrails for each day, shifts, coifs, and socks. All freshly ironed and folded.  


In the sewing process, I decided to recycle an old loose kirtle that never fit well anyway into a viable gown and doublet. We know that clothing was recycled time after time, and can document a booming second hand clothing trade in the late 16th century – so I decided to put an unusable garment (let’s pretend grandma’s old kirtle) to use to create an “in style” outfit for myself. Because the process was pertinent to previous discussions with HL Annora regarding recycling clothing and why we find certain odd shapes when other shapes would have worked just as well, I actually documented the process for once – and look forward to her take on it. Starting with the partially lined kirtle, I took it completely apart, performed various color removing and bleaching to get to a fairly light neutral color, dyed the kirtle (I was going for brown, but had to add black too), ended up with a lovely period shade of “poor black”, and now have the pieces laying on the floor…. So here we see the back sides going together at a diagonal to form a square.

dress layout

Now the sides are together, I’m trying to get the largest rectangular measurement I can to use for skirt panels. And apparently standing at a funky angle to boot…

dress leveling

The rectangles have been cut, re-cut to even out, and additional panels added from the shorter lining pieces to give the skirt additional bulk. The length is approximately 3yards-ish, and box pleated it should give a decent skirt. There is a very good chance that I will be adding a black linen guard to the bottom of the skirt as well as a thick vertical guard up the front opening to give another 1/4 yard to work with. I also have enough left over of the old kirtle to make a sleeveless doublet; more on that when the stays are totally finished since I will need to measure and fit over them.

dress in pannel

Realistically I’d be far closer to being done, however I ran into this problem of wanting to make sure that visible seams were hand sewn. Granted, they look nicer, but time is fleeting. I’m also in the process of making sure that the husband has clothing. Prototype 1 shirt was mostly finished last night, now to replicate that two more times, fit his pseudo-Venetian pants, one doublet, and one jacket he should be good to go – and a statute cap, we can’t have him getting fined…


Then I had the bright idea to use up fleece scraps to make a mattress pad for my camp bed. In Ruth Goodman’s “How to be a Tudor” book***, she mentions sheep’s roving being used to stuff a sort of duvet or mattress pad type thing. Bits of the sheared fleece that were of a substandard nature and couldn’t be used for cloth production were cleaned up, carded, and then laid out in a large rectangular shape. More and more roving (it is roving at this point right? or still fleece?) is laid on, alternating directions in big fluffy layers, almost like you are getting ready to felt a giant rectangle. Instead of felting, a heavy cloth or canvas is used to sandwich the fleece and sew it in a quilt like fashion into a heavy winter duvet or mattress pad. Obviously I was far too clever for my own good, because while I lacked sheep’s fleece I did have a huge tub of polar fleece scraps… Now I have a twin sized mattress pad made of puns…. 13 layers of puns in fact. Now to get them quilted/sewed/basted together into a cohesive and usable item. Some day, when I have sheep, I will be able to actually use and create the real thing instead of a substandard imitation…


fleece blocks

Probably close to the most intricate panel.





Lilies Food…. I was honored with the task of putting together the Ladies of the Rose refreshment table, and the menu finalizing is occurring this afternoon on that. I’m looking at trying out several of the Norse recipes that I’m prepping for the Calontir Party at Pennsic. Included in that is the yogurt cheese that I was going to try out that doesn’t need refrigeration (the Norse could have plausibly encountered it in Byzantium region). Good news, is that the concept of the yogurt cheese was a success; bad news is that it has received mixed reviews ( I love it, the husband hates it), my mom’s opinion this weekend will be the tie breaker. It is a very strong cheese, with a similar flavor profile intensity of an herbed goat cheese or blue. Before its minimum week long ferment in the olive oil, the strained, salted, and partially dried yogurt was rolled in a combination of thyme, sesame seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika (not period I know, but it gives such a lovely color), dried lemon peel, tarragon, and rosemary. Every day for at least seven days, the jars need to be gently turned so that the olive oil re-coats the cheese. Cheese balls are slightly delicate, so if you have experience with making Southern style chicken and dumplings (the old way, we aren’t talking bisquick here friends) and gently shaking and swirling the pot to keep the dumplings from sticking – then you have the right skill set ready developed for making these… The lemon peel gave the cheese a lovely and prominent citrus burst while the sesame seeds and partially whole rosemary leaves gave a nice texture. Like I said, I liked it and think it holds promise. Here is the yogurt cheese on the day 1 and day 10.

Yogurt day 0

Yogurt Cheese Day 1



Yogurt day 10

Yogurt Cheese Day 10



Yogurt cheese cut

The yogurt cheese ball cut to examine texture and yumminess factor.



Should a person not like the yogurt cheese, hopefully they will like the second cheese option. I’ll either be making some fresh herbed cheese the morning of, or I’ll have time to do several rounds of a red wine soaked cheese. Below is a round of cheese that was soaked in a red wine and red wine salt mixture for five days, then dried off, rubbed in more red wine salt and aged for three/four more days. The ending texture before being put up to age until Lilies was… interesting. Almost a sort of springy pickled feel? I’m looking forward to eating it at Lilies….

Red wine cheese

This weekend I received a request from my husband to make some cheese for his work potluck. Oh, this also might be a good time to mention that the previous cranberry and nocino cheeses didn’t make it to the aging process, because the looked far too good – and were in fact. So, I made three rounds of cranberry cheese. Two with my normal presses, and one small one with the awesome Roman cheese press by HE Gwen.

Cheese in presses

Cheeses in the presses!


They turned out yummy. Definitely not an aging cheese. But, very yummy all the same.

Cranberry cheese small

Cranberry cheese made in Roman style cheese press.


Now I really do have to get back to it. Too much to do, too little time left!


***You know I had to mention Ruth Goodman at some point in this blog post, right?


Countdown to Lilies: 53 Days and Musing…

It 53 days until Lilies War – kind of big deal in the SCA Kingdom I reside in. I have nothing to wear. My husband, who does NOT play, has decided that he is coming for the first weekend (Yay!). He has nothing to wear. I’m teaching two new classes that I have to hone. New tent furnishings need to be made. There is much cheese that must be processed… Sensing a trend here? I’m not ready, not in the least bit. But, that’s okay.

I’m more than I a bit bummed that I won’t be going to any more events until Lilies War, but alas, spring is as it always is – filled with far too many commitments. However, that gives me some really fabulous opportunities to get a good base wardrobe that I’m actually happy with made, and to have a proper historical wardrobe for my persona from the skin out. Not everything will be perfect, and it will be of the peasant class instead of the lower gentry that my eventual goal is, but it should work for Lilies and during the weight transitions.  I know a couple more of my friends are doing this for this year too, and I’m really excited in discussing the pro/cons/challenges/etc. with them after the event is all said and done.

From the skin out? Historical? Isn’t that what you already do in the SCA? Yes, and no. For me, I’m really starting to focus more on my chosen time period – the 16th century, more specifically the late 16th century. With that, I’m not looking to create a bunch a clothes (like I’ve done in the past), but an actual wardrobe – a set of clothing that works within the historical matrix of what we know people actually owned (based on wills and such) and what they could afford. Our closets today are much different than the wardrobes of our ancestors. The best way to think about the historical wardrobe is a pyramid. At the base, you have white linens – your smocks, shirts, hose (if made of linen), partlets, headrails, yard cloths for various wrapping and covering needs, aprons, and just about anything else that came into contact with your skin on a daily basis. On the next tier up, you have your everyday woolens – hoses, kirtles, petticoats, things that were of lesser grades and dye colors of wool, things that got worn and used on an everyday basis. Next you have your better wools, better dyes uses, a nice wool kirtle and gown for those special market days or holy days that you aren’t mucking out the stable while wearing – this is getting into the realm of the really prosperous peasantry and yeoman farmers.  For most of the people during Tudor England, the extent of one’s clothing ended at step number two on the socioeconomic material culture ladder (unless your employer chose to cloth you differently). While, for the nobility, the pyramid continued to the very top with scarlet and ermine.

Taking this into consideration, my clothing going with me to Lilies will be primarily made of white linen (and some old cotton that is on it’s last leg) comprised of a fresh smock, headrail, and socks for each day. Next, I’ll have two kirtles that have been remade from previous dresses. They will be linen instead of wool, but that is what future improvement is for. At least two if not three aprons, two white linen partlets, one black partlet, three proper coifs, and a couple of sets of pin-on sleeves – I should look like a proper hodge-podge of a peasant!

Well, that’s the idea anyway, hopefully with writing this all down I’ll have no choice but to stick with it now. More to come.




Project Hodgpodge: Sibilla’s too lazy to do more than one post

Considering how I’m currently feeling, the subtitle of this post should probably be the headliner. Alas, this is basically going to be an all out hodgepodge of what I’ve been working on in the space of time from my last post – and it’s photo heavy, so you might be screwed if your are reading on a mobile device.

16th Century Turkish Hat: for Baroness Ishmala bint Yuhannah, OL, induction into the Order of the Pelican. The hat is based on this portrait of Mihrimah, daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Titian#/media/File:Tizian_121.jpg) by Titian. While this portrait is a copy of a lost original, we have several other portraits of her, or possibly other women of the court, and a similar hat (which may or may not also be copies but the hat remains fairly fixed).


16th Century Turkish Hat

This hat was a challenge. While the initial internal felt/wire support structure of the hat was fairly straight forward, the draping and the understanding of what I interpreted to be the combination of something like a turban with very high back additions proved to be challenging. There was a lot of fiddling with it and frustration when the fabric decided to drape in different ways on the same symmetrically cut piece of fabric, or chose to not drape properly at all… Everything that you are seeing was hand sewn(sometimes creatively), a necessity when trying to get certain folds to lay *just right*, or large pearls (representing her baronial coronet) to sit on several layers of fabric and base. I chose for the decorative bands to be pinned on in the end. That way should she choose to change things up a bit and go for the set stones seen in the original or something else later on, it would be less hassle to remove or replace the bands. I’m really happy with the way that it turned out. I had wanted to play with this hat for a while, and I finally had the opportunity when Ishmala’s apprentice, the lovely Lady Juliana della Rena whom is holding the hat with beautifully beaded sleeves, honored me with helping out.


Speaking of the lovely Lady Juliana della Rena, the next project is a needle-worked purse given to her as a sponsor’s gift from this last Queen’s Prize Tournament. Juliana’s entry was a gorgeous silk embroidery showcasing Assisi work, which is a 16th century Italian counted thread embroidery. Since you can tell I’m gushing a bit about this, it won’t be a surprise that she inspired me to try out a new idea for some counted work of my own. The pattern comes from Hans Hofer’s Formbuechlein, printed in Augsburg in 1545, and could have been used for a multitude of projects that lend themselves to a counted pattern.

counted pattern 1 001

A Counted Pattern from Hans Hofer’s Fombuechlein, 1545.


The stitch used is a crossed stitch, found in period and used prominently in the Oxburgh Hangings from the late 16th century. It was however embroidered on aida cloth as a bit of an experiment to see the results on such, as well as the possibility that the original pattern was not intended to be used as embroidery at all (even though many designs in the form book to lend themselves to embroidery). But it was fun to do, turned out rather well, and still has much of the period aesthetic that I was going for. I also learned how to lucet from this project with a lucet given to me previously by Juliana. You can see my efforts (still very much in the learning phase) as the drawstrings and such.


Embroidered Drawstring Pouch


More works in progress: a timeline of French hoods for my class on the subject.


French Hood Timeline, in Progress

I had hoped to have these completely finished for my class on French hoods at Clothier’s Seminar in early February, but alas it simply didn’t happen. Since then they have been placed on the back burner – but not too far back since they need to be ready for the class I’ll be teaching again at Lilies. The goal is to have a complete hood as a model for the substantial design changes the hood made throughout it’s popularity, from the style popularized by Anne of Brittany at the turn of the 16th century through it’s many transformations until the end of the 16th century in the style of an Elizabethan hood. I didn’t think that I needed to completely reinvent the wheel and either used the patterns from the Tudor Tailor, or altered them to create the earlier versions. At some point, I probably will work on reinventing the wheel to reflect the research I have been doing with the French hood to come up with a more period pattern and understanding of how they would have gone together in period, but for now I’m pleased enough to have them this way and teach as such. More to come on these as they are completed and proper finishing elements added.


Speaking of Hats, my most recently finished hat is an Elizabethan heart shaped bonnet. I’m pretty smitten with it and love that I can show a style beyond the typical late 16th century French hood. In the photo it is beside the Elizabethan hood I made for my first Queen’s Prize project a few years ago (the hood was based on the portrait of Alice Brandon, by Nicholas Hilliard, 1578).  I used the pattern for the bonnet from the Tudor Tailor, substituting the base suggested with the base for the Elizabethan hood since I felt it gave it more of the period look. You see this style in many places, a couple being in the Commonplace book of Thomas Trevilian, 1608/1611, as well as here in this grave monument where the girls have their white coifs under the bonnet so you see them on the front (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sheepdog_rex/5107673032/in/photolist-e1vbP7-8Mmaf9-8Mi9UH-8Mmbgy-8Mi87e-8Mmd2L-8MmaKL-8MiaJB-8MmhTs-8Mi8Bk-8MmiiC-8Mm9My-owdDjv-ab9Qdn-ab9Phi-abcHFy-7fkQxB). At some point, I’d also like to do a lace edged coif also in this style.


Elizabethan style French hood and Elizabethan Heart Shaped Bonnet


I also finally got a round to making a decent set of ruffs for my Elizabethan ensemble. For the Chieftain’s event, I set the ruffs and pinned them. The neck ruff did really well, but the wrist ruffs unfortunately had quite a few bloodstains on them at the end of the day. Afterward, looking at portraits, I confirmed that indeed men mostly wore the wrist ruffs and women either very small ruffles or turned back cuffs. The wrist ruffs on men were also loose; they had most likely been set with pins, but then unpinned before wearing. Lesson learned. For ease, I decided to go ahead and sew the sets in these ruffs, just for the ease of it – they are also cotton for trial purposes, so it’s not like they are historically accurate anyway. When I get to making the proper linen ruff, I’ll keep that one pinned.

Heart shaped bonnet and ruff

Heart Shaped Bonnet in Action with Correct Period Hair Style and Pinned Ruff. Photo by Dread Baroness Elianor de Morland.


Here is the ruff not pinned on. The sets already sewn into the neck ruff and starched.


Neck ruff, total set height at a little over 3.5 inches.

I washed the wrist ruffs (there was some substantial soaking involved) before I sewed the sets in, but this lets you see the mini-cartridge pleating that creates the ruff itself. Which, I have a huge thank you to give to Lady Verena Näherin for explaining the mysteries behind pleating the ruffs and attaching them to the bands.


Wrist Ruffs. Inside and Outside, unstarched to show tiny cartridge pleating.


My latest project has been 11th century Rus. I had hoped for it to be finished this weekend for Crown Tournament, but apparently I’m crazy and have decided to completely hand sew the ensemble which means the entirety of it won’t be finished in time. Oh, did I mention I’m also weaving the trim for it too? Below is the trim so far, and an illustration of how far I’ve come from the first thing I learned with (thanks again for teaching me Fionn!) to the green apprentice belt that was next, then the patterned green belt that will be the top edge of the panova, and the new pattern hot-off-of-the-loom that will be used on the rubakha. More on this when it is eventually finished.


Inkle wove trim, a fun learning experience. First is in background to most recent in the foreground.











The Fight Between Carnival and Lent: Or, a personal metaphor for the struggle to balance the Creative with the Historical

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent: Or, a personal metaphor for the struggle to balance the Creative with the Historical

I have no shame in high-jacking the title off of a celebrated Bruegel painting to frame my current state of mind. In my mind its fitting, especially since this internal battle is indeed occurring in the first full week of Lent. My medieval counterpart would currently be abstaining from eating meat (excluding fish) and dairy (including eggs), as well as being extra pious; while I’m sitting here debating whether to pin or sew the sets into the new ruffs I’m making.

It seems like a shallow and easy to answer question, but the underlying currents have me asking some rather difficult questions about the “creative” part of the SCA versus the history that we allegedly should be striving towards. Throw in practicality, as well as the overarching modern mindset into the mix and the question isn’t quite so shallow any more.

In context, I’ve been reading Ruth Goodman’s new book, How to be a Tudor: The Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life. It is really fantastic and has me re-thinking most of the ways that I approach the SCA – especially since I feel like I’ve been treading water for some time in the oft coined “persona development” side of things. Reading this book feels like a whole new world of possibilities have been opened to me on the historical front, and I’m only about half way done on the first read through. (Expect a full blog post write up when I finish on the second read through after notes have been taken, right now I’m just reveling in the joy of it all.) This book takes the information presented in the similar experimental archeology programs Tudor Monastery Farm and Tales From the Green Valley, to a whole new level.

Enter: the description of preparing a ruff. Goodman describes the process as starching the ruff, drying, smoothing the ruff and starch to a sheen, and then finally setting the actual ‘sets’ with a hot poking rod and pinning in place. Pins were used so that the ruffs could be easily laundered and the process repeated. Styles of sets could quickly change from one preparation to the next as well. Sometimes a bit of warmed beeswax would be used to hold the sets in place in lue of the pins.  Fast forward to today and most ruffs used in costuming and historical portrayal have sewn sets and are starched and worked out to give a lovely even set every time with the conservation of time spent on the preparation of the ruff to a minimum. But that is one of the problems, time and labor are worth so much more today then they were in the 16th century. It is assumed that us modern persons will take the “creative approach” to our projects for practicalities sake. What do we do when modern practicalities contradict reasonable historical ones? Historically it would have been more practical to pin the ruff, yet today we see it as an inconvenience. Or, even worse, as laziness or sloppiness.

On my first ruff, I had read that indeed pins were used to set ruffs. Granted I had intended to sew the sets shut but lack of time indeed prevailed, so I left the pins in anyway – it was after all a period choice thing, right? When questioned about the pins, I explained that in the period they were one option used to set ruffs – oh the raised eyebrows and skepticism! (In no form or fashion am I saying that this ruff was perfect, it wasn’t, amusingly it was the pins that people had problems about – not the actual wrongness of the ruff shape, etc.) And even worse, the self consciousness of “Oh no, they are going to think that I’m horrible and lazy and never look at anything I make with a shred of belief ever again!” Granted, after reading Goodman’s work, I feel a bit more validated about my previous pin preference. Except, and it is a big one, I feel that I’m more torn than before about the ever present fight between making the historical choice (as odd as it might seem to others) or going with the “creative” side of the SCA and not coming off as a nutter. Well, maybe not that drastic, but when researching an era that is not as well pursued as others, “pretty” tends to come across as correct – and that’s not always the case. Which, that opens up another can of worms in regard to SCA philosophy as to whether things should be encouraged to fit into our modern “pretty” sensibilities, or the ideal that authenticity itself is beautiful?

But that is not the heart of this battle in my mind tonight. Tonight, it is about whether to pin, or not to pin. Throw myself into the history of the period and the mindset of those that truly thought much differently than we do now? Or remain at a safe, comfortable, pre-set ruff distance? Granted, if I take this first step, a marvelously period kit isn’t going to materialize over night. But a step is a step. If I pin, then I can make more batches of homemade starch (no, not the pre-made powder type, the good stinky stuff). A glass smoothing stone can be commissioned from the local glassblower, and a board won’t be hard to find. A metal worker can make a poking stick, and viola! a period ruff setting set up. But what about everything else?

Ruffs weren’t the only things pined. Hundreds of thousands of pins were being shipped into England at any given time. According to Goodman, pinning ones ensemble together was especially necessary if you were a woman who at the time was most likely either pregnant, in between pregnancies, or had a body that was no longer the one you had on your wedding day. Stomachers helped hide gaps in the clothing of the torso, as well as could be easily adjusted on a daily basis to conform to a changing body. These and other accessories were often pinned on, and women went through a lot of them – pins that is. Skirts that had a neat little pleat at the end of a wheel farthingale – yes, those too are thought to have been pinned in place. How do we cope with this vastly different concept of wearing clothing in context of the expectations of the SCA? I don’t have an answer, but I think that it is an important question that any person engaged in any sort of historical reenactment or recreation has to ask themselves – or at the very least, engage in an internal dialogue once in a while.