Sunday, December 13, 2015

Women's Dress Colors in the 1432 "Le Decameron"

I've been having some fun lately with color.

While looking over the images I've collected for my survey of early 15th Century French women's clothing, I was struck by how often the same colors came up. One explanation for this is that paint colors used in manuscripts during this period were a pretty well-established standard, even to the point that patrons dictated in their contracts what colors and even how much of each were to be used. But I'd like to think that the colors are representative of reality, at least in part, and that the colors used in the miniatures can reasonably be used to create a real-life color palette of the period for recreation.

I decided to start by grabbing a sampling of illuminations from Le Decameron (Arsenal MS 5070, reserve, 1432), taking them into Photoshop, and eye-dropping the dresses. I adjusted the colors a bit more to account for the dullness that comes from the scanning process, and came up with a five-color palette that captures the colors worn by women in Le Decameron fairly well:

Colors from Le Decameron (Arsenal MS 5070, reserve, 1432)

From there, I thought it would be fun to sort of define each of the colors, according to the variations in the manuscript. Then, armed with a range of acceptable colors, see if I could source fabric for each. For the most part, I wanted to find wool, since that's generally the best fabric across the board for this period, but I did look at B.Black & Son's Silk Matka and Fabric-Store's Linen for the colors as well.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Girdling Your Skirts, Early 15th Century Style

The early 15th century seems to have had a dual personality when it came to skirt length. On the one hand, pooling skirts were quite vogue, and fashionable for any woman who could afford to have her gown made with the appropriate skirt length. On the other hand, this was an era in which many women performed any number of laborious tasks including housekeeping, artistic pursuits, weaving, and general labor. For these tasks, pooling skirts would have been ridiculous. But many of these women had a limited number of gowns in their possession, so it was not feasible to have gowns with pooling skirts and separate gowns with shorter working skirts.

The compromise, therefore, was to girdle long skirts when needed, reducing them in length when work was the order of the day. The manner, or rather manners, in which they did this likely varied from woman to woman, town to town, etc., resulting in a mixture of methods shown in contemporary artwork.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Taking a Moment in the In-Between

Last weekend I attended the Known World Costuming Symposium, an SCA event that invited all those interested in costuming to come and connect with each other. The day was full of classes, on a wide range of costuming topics, but the best part of the day for me was meeting others who share my interests who I would typically not have had a chance to meet.

These types of events, which happen in different formats throughout the year, are also great occasions to pause and evaluate. I come away from symposium experiences thinking deeply about where I am in my personal journey, and about the projects I choose to fill my time with.

This year, I have been a maker. Productivity and inspiration have definitely been on my side. So much so that I no longer have a fabric stash to tap into. Which is both odd and relieving. But I'm going to take it for what it is- a moment "in-between".

It rarely lines up like this- that I've got no projects weighing heavily on the to do list, while I'm also feeling particularly introspective. It's nice to actually have the opportunity to stop and think about what should be next, and not just grab the next thing that happens to be on the pile.

I want to celebrate this time to think, research, plan, and of course build my stash back up. I've got reading to catch up on, such as working through a translation of Le Ménagier de Paris I've put off for several years. I've got a research project I love, but have barely worked on. I've got projects in progress that I need to make the hard call on weather I will finish them, abandon them, or let them sit a while longer.

I think that capturing these types of moments, rather than pressuring ourselves to get on to the next thing, makes it possible for us to improve in a different way than what practice can offer. I am reminded, yet again, of what Maya Angelou told us:

You've got to give yourself the chance to know what "better" is on occasion.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Project Complete: Late 14th Century Transitional Open Hood

I think it might be clear at this point that I am a connoisseur of the open hood. I have an entire drawer full of them. Seven of them, in fact. Each with its own color and character. The seventh is the hood I'm sharing today.

A transitional style open hood suitable for the period between 1360 and 1420.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Medieval Hike & Picnic

A few weeks ago, some photos crossed my Facebook news feed of a small group doing a medieval trip into the woods for a meal. I've seen these sorts of trips from several European groups over the years, but I'd never done anything similar, nor had I ever heard of anyone I knew doing it. So, for the rest of the day, I day dreamed about it, thinking about how fun a medieval hike might be. Then, that evening, my household sister sent me a message, linking to the same pictures. She too had spent the day thinking about doing a medieval picnic in the woods. We knew at that point that it had to happen, even if it was just the two of us.

Our intrepid group, loaded up with our gear and ready to go.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Project Complete: Red Wool Pilgrim's Bag

At the end of the event last weekend, I had the wool bag assembled, including the finished strap, and I had just finished sewing the lining pieces together. Before inserting the lining into the bag, I finished the seams. I used a flat fell seam, orienting them outward onto the main bag piece.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

In Progress: Red Wool Pilgrim's Bag

So when I left off last week, I had my pattern figured out, and the pieces cut. I decided to start with the strap. First, I sewed the ends of the strap to the bag sides.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

In Progress: Red Wool Pilgrim's Bag

Before I get into today's topic, I want to thank everyone that has participated in my reader survey. I've gotten a great response. The survey will remain open for the remainder of today (until about 10:00 pm EST), so there's still a chance to take it if you haven't.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Would you like to take a survey?

I've kept this blog for somewhere around 6 years now, and it has slowly evolved, but never really changed. The truth is, I don't really have a great sense of who's out there reading it, and what you think of my content. I'm also curious to know the topics you may like to see more (or less) of from me. These are important aspects to maintaining a blog that remains relevant and helpful to my readers.

So if you have a few moments, please head over to Survey Monkey before October 5th to answer a 10 question survey. You can get there using this link:

Thank you in advance for you assistance with this. I appreciate all the help you can give me to ensure that The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist remains on your reading list!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Project Complete: Celtic-Inspired Embroidered Tunic

Back in the fall of 2014, when I started this project, I knew I was probably biting off more than I could chew. This is definitely one of those instances where the vision in your mind, and the lure of potential end up setting you down a path you might not actually be ready for or interested in taking. As my husband and I talked over what to do with this gorgeous linen, we dreamed rather wildly about all the things it could be. The finished reality is less than those dreams, but worlds more than I thought I was capable of back when I started.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Some Projects That Pennsic Added to my Pile

I like long events. Having now attended two in one year after an 11-year drought, I've decided that week-long events are the way the SCA should be experienced, at least once. I'm sure some folks disagree, and there are certainly pros and cons, but I learn more, enjoy more, and connect more when I'm immersed long enough for the cares of the mundane world to fade into the background. And I don't walk away from that experience unchanged and unchallenged.

I like having the opportunity to put my kit through its paces, and identify the areas in which I can do better, or add something. I'm happy to report that I haven't had anything fail on me, so repairs aren't on my list. For the most part, I'm seeing gaps that need to be filled, or things that are working just fine, but could be replaced or supplemented. As we move into the autumn event season, now is a great time to add these things to my project pile. Here are just some of the things I have in mind to work on:

It gets cold at night.

The numero uno thing on my list after Pennsic is better sleeping garb. I typically think of the whole pajama thing way at the end of planning, and end up tossing in a weird collection of yoga pants and t-shirts and a few random linen shifts that have been floating around for way too many years. It works, mostly, until the temperature drops below 50F. Then I'm freezing, wondering which dresses I can throw on quickly, and wondering why I didn't pack that second bag of blankets. I was cold at night way too often, and it really was the worst part of the whole week. Granted, another body in bed helps, so camping alone is partially to blame here, but it would be kind of awkward to knock on the neighboring tent at 1:00 in the morning and request some body-warming snuggles. At least, I don't think my camp mates would appreciate that sort of thing....

So on the last night in camp, I identified that I had two issues that can easily be remedied with, I hope, the same solutions. First, I'd like to have plausibly accurate garb that functions as pajamas so that I'm not randomly grabbing mundane or ill-fitting stuff. Second, I'd like said pajamas to offer me warmth options to better handle the variable temperatures of the night.

Over on the Age of the Cotehardie Facebook group, I asked if anyone had researched pajama solutions in keeping with the 14th or 15th centuries, and the TL:DR answer was "not really". At this time, most women depicted in bed (which is actually a pretty rare image from what I've seen) are visible only from the neck up. When they are out of bed but undressed, they wear a smock- a white, short, long-sleeved garment equivalent to a man's shirt- and a cap (or even their full fashionable headdress, because why not?). The idea tossed out in that Facebook discussion, to which I agree, was that women at that time didn't generally hang about before getting dressed or after undressing, so intermediate layering options like a dressing gown or robe were not necessary. In fact, a man seeing a woman not in a gown was pretty uncool. So much so that in the image below from De casibus (BNF Fr. 226, fol. 98v), the women are humiliated by being ordered to show their smocks.

I think a simple wool smock is a great solution here. In fact, I think layering a linen smock under a wool smock, and adding warm hose and a cap is an especially ideal solution. If I'm feeling particularly spunky, I could also add a pair of braies (which wouldn't be exactly correct for me as a woman, but no one need know, and my easily-cold butt would thank me.) In this scenario, I'd have the ability to add a layer over the linen if it's cold, or remove the wool layer if I warm up in the middle of the night. The bonus either way is that when I exit my pavilion in the morning, or to shower, or in the middle of the night when nature calls, I'm "dressed" and not ruining the atmosphere with mundania.

This doesn't at all discount the probable need for more (or heavier) blankets, but I'm willing to bet that having warmer, better pajamas ends up being a bit psychosomatic, and I get a better night's sleep even if I'm still a bit cold. Currently, I have this wool in mind.

Only having one option gets boring.

I use my linen canvas pilgrim bag every time I'm at an event, and so at War, I used in daily. It's a signature piece for me, really, and it's been well-used in the relatively short amount of time I've had it. I love it, and while it could use some interior pockets, I'm really thankful to have it. It functions as a walking day camp, and at large events when it could be hours before I return to my encampment, having everything I might need for the day right there at my hip is really convenient.

But I got bored with it. It may be that it's a creamy white, and so it stands out. It might be that I put just a few too many things it in on occasion. It's probably most likely that I'm not really keen on becoming a one-trick pony. I don't want a single piece to become so ubiquitous in my recreation that it becomes comically predictable. I know that I like having a bag, so it really comes down to having more options.

Detail from folio 25r of Heures de Marguerite d'Orléans (BNF Latin 1156B)
It didn't take me long to decide on the type of bag to make (two examples in the image above). What took the longest was choosing a color. I gravitate naturally toward blues, but I was worried that a blue bag would be boring in a different way; in that "of course Edyth is wearing a blue bag" way. Friends on Facebook offered suggestions, and I was encouraged to match the source image I found. Eventually, I settled on a crimson red wool, which is pretty close to the source on the woman above, but suitable to my personal tastes. And not blue.

I'll save more details on this project for when I actually start it, but having a second option for a shoulder bag is one of those small improvements that seem to matter a whole lot. Besides, it gives me a chance to improve upon my last bag, and improvement is always a good thing.

I came home with a much longer list that two two things, and some are easier to remedy than others, but these two feel the most important to me right now. They'll need to wait for a bit while I clear my work table of some time-sensitive projects for friends.

What about you? Have you discovered anything lately you could improve or replace in your kit?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Self-Esteem and Other Such Nonsense

I didn't start this blog with the intention of appearing so often within it. I was content for most of the first years of writing to appear here and there. It wasn't initially all that important to me to even include pictures. Eventually, I began to realize that the best way to share what I was accomplishing was to make sure I got photos of my finished work. Appearing in my garb started to be a key component of how I shared my progress. Only I was horrible in front of the camera.

My first fitted dress. I use that term loosely. So did the dress.
Much of the timidness I experienced was directly related to my size. I've been plus sized my entire adult life, but social conditioning told me that wasn't acceptable, and I felt embarrassed to put photos of myself in my garb out there. How could anybody find a fat girl who doesn't exactly know how to sew in the first place at all inspiring?

The camera angle highlights everything wrong with this dress.
To be fair, this was our first "photo shoot".
I kept at it, though, and started to take post-project photo shoots seriously. Not because I was trying to break through any body image barrier, but because what I was trying to accomplish with this blog required it. If I was going to make an impact with my readers, and keep people interested in what I had to say, I couldn't leave them hanging with no visual record of what I had been talking about, and no context for its success or failure.

One sack of potatoes, comin' right up!
After a while, taking a bit of time after completing a piece to take photos became a part of the process. I've never put on my garb, handed my husband my camera, and said "screw negative body image, I'm perfect!". In fact, my husband can attest that when I'm dressed and ready for the photos to start, I always ask "Does this look okay?" But I stopped letting that insecurity be a barrier to me sharing all the hard work I put into doing better, and walking the long road toward mastery of a craft I most certainly do not have a natural talent for.

As bad of a picture as this is in general, I do enjoy when a
genuine and hearty laugh gets caught on camera.
What I share with you here on the blog is curated. When we finish a photo session, my camera roll has 50+ new photos. We get silly. Something weird is going on behind me. My husband always does one of those stupid "Batman villain" angled shots. Mostly, I'm talking or adjusting, or squinting because I'm not wearing my glasses. Occasionally, I'm talking to a child just out of the shot. Then I spend about an hour reviewing each photo, laughing at the funny fails, and pulling out the photos I want to share.

Oh yeah. Here's the money shot.
Here's the thing, though. I don't weed out photos simply because I look bad in them. I pull them out because, at a certain point, I decided that I wanted this blog to be a source of inspiration for what's possible regardless of your size. It's incredibly important to me that plus-sized costumers who find my blog leave it feeling a little more confident in their own potential, even if only a little. In order for that to work, I include in my "project logs" images that show the garment in the best light. I want you, my readers, to see the outfit and go "that's pretty nice." Excluding less-than-pretty photos has less to do with my personal level of self-esteem, and more to do with marketing. In other words, it's part of my job to visually sell you guys on the idea of the piece in the hopes that you too will give it a try.

Photos like this are why I tell my husband to tell me to just
stop talking when we're doing this.
The fact of the matter is that, in this hobby, we all look ridiculous. It's rather silly, isn't it? It's lovely and awesome and the coolest thing ever, but it's a little weird. It's clothing, but it's costume. Garb tells a story, and builds our collective culture. Some people care about it a whole heck of a lot, other folks would be just as good without the whole garb thing. But I guarantee you that you've done your fair share of "well that looks...interesting". We've all seen people wearing something we wish they hadn't attempted. Even people who look absolutely fabulous in their garb look positively looney when you consider what it is that they probably wear to work, or to the grocery store, or walking the dog.

Now here's a lady you don't want to meet in a dark alley.
The bottom line is that we're all trying the best we can. If I don't look perfect in my clothing, that's all well and good, because at least I tried, and I'm learning in the process. I self-criticize like the best of them, and those failed photos that are particularly unattractive undoubtedly give my confidence a hit. But way more than that, I'm having fun. And I hope you're having fun too. I hope what I share with you here helps to make you happy to be a part of this silly hobby, and to know that you aren't going it alone, no matter your talent, size, or situation.

"Did we get a good one yet? No? You have got to be kidding me."
BTW, I'll be at Pennsic next week, so I won't have a post on Sunday. I plan to do another round of #whatedythwore over on Facebook, though, so make sure you're following me if you want to keep up with that. As always, if you spot me, please stop me and say "Hi". It means so much to me to know you guys out there really do exist.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Project Complete: Late 14th Century Brown Wool Surcotte


A wool surcotte suitable for the very late 14th and very early 15th centuries.


I don't have a specific source for this one, as it's mostly a conglomeration of styles. For the most part, this dress is close to the general style seen on effigies and funerary brasses on late 14th century middle class women, but I can't draw too close of a comparison there. I really just wanted a dress that I could slip on over any of my fitted dresses, and an excuse to do front buttons, and still have a dress suitable to my period.


This is another dress that uses my current symmetrical pattern. I'm still really happy with how it's working for me, especially when it comes to the pattern layout and fabric conservation. If you were following me on Facebook when I was putting this dress together, you may recall that I shared the method I use to cut gores. It's a handy trick that cuts out a lot of time. In terms of the basic construction, this dress isn't anything new. The real differences come with the finishing.

In many ways, I tend to gloss over finishing details on my dresses. I think this is a throwback to when craftsmanship wasn't on my radar, and it's a bad habit I would really like to break. So for this dress, I looked for ways to include finishing details I don't normally do. The buttons were a major part of that, since I usually only do a few buttons on the forearms, if I bother to do them at all. By forcing myself to put a row of them front and center (literally), I had no choice but to pay attention to finishing and do them right.

I used a strip of linen as a facing on each side of the front opening. You can see this type of treatment on some of the London finds (Dame Helen explains a bit about these in her post here.) I also stab stitched the very edges here. Not only does it offer a nice detail, it adds a bit more strength to these edges. I haven't seen that on anything in particular- I just liked the idea.

I didn't have any silk that was remotely the right color, so I mined my pearl cotton stash and found a brown that works. It's not an exact match, but I like that about it.

I used my own method for the buttons, again using pearl cotton since it's stronger than the sewing thread I was using. I used more thin strips of linen to face the neckline and sleeve hems. The seams are flat felled.


This was one of those projects that fell out of nowhere. When I purchased the wool 2 years ago or so, I didn't have a plan for it, but I don't think this would have been the dress I made if I'd had a plan. This dress happened because I wanted something nice, that looked pretty and could fall into my "formal wear" category when I needed it to. I also liked the idea of going into my apprenticeship ceremony in neutral colors- just a hint of symbolism that meant something to me if to no one else. 
Photo by Lady Marrissa von Atzinger:

This dress feels very luxurious to me, despite the blandness of the color. I think it fits well, though slightly more loose than I had intended, and the short, straight sleeves are very comfortable. In the end, I don't think there's anything I would have done differently. Always a plus.

See more photos of this dress over in the Flickr album or on Facebook!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Preparing for Pennsic

I'm incredibly thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Pennsic this year, for the first time in 11 years. Things aligned just right, and while my husband will be unable to accompany me, I'm relieved to have the break. My life has been on high-octane for a bit too long, so bumming out with a few thousand of my friends for a week sounds absolutely lovely.

If you follow me on Facebook, you can expect another round of #whatedythwore throughout war week. That was really fun to do at Gulf Wars back in March, and I really enjoy having that visual record of the outfits I pulled together each day. The difference this time is that it will be hotter, and I've decided to devote more of my traveling space to my pavilion and less on my garb. It's a challenge I've considered since first thinking about attending Pennsic this year.

If you've been a reader for more than a year, you may have realized that I tend to create pieces rather than outfits. I look at the relative pros and cons of each new garment I make in terms of whether a) I really need it, b) it works with my overall persona/period goals and boundaries, and c) it works within the larger picture of my entire wardrobe. As much as possible, I work toward more pros for each of these considerations than cons, but there are certainly pieces that don't meet all these requirements.

All of this works toward one end goal: a wardrobe with flexibility. Since each piece I create bears some kind of relation to every other piece (for the most part), I'm able to grab out select pieces and combine them in ample variety. If, instead, every garment I create was designed specifically to fit into a specific outfit, the mixing possibilities would be limited. Color combinations would fail, details would clash, cats and dogs living together. You get the idea.

So I looked at what I had available (which is a pretty good amount thanks to an overly-productive winter and spring), and I've decided to see what I can do with just 4 pieces for the week. Here are the pieces I picked:

Red Rose Dress

This is a heavy-weight linen dress with a linen lining in the bodice. It's one of my favorites, though it could use some adjustments at the bust for more long-term support, so I typically wear it with my supportive short cotte. With long sleeves that don't roll up, it only works either under something or by itself- but it looks pretty awesome by itself.

Green Linen Cotte

My newest supportive dress, this one is two layers of linen. It fits great, with great support, so I don't need to wear my supportive short cotte underneath it for extra support. I'm really not overly concerned about wearing it directly against my body, though I know that might bother some people. This dress also has long sleeves that do not open, so other than color it's practically the same as the red one, just a different style.

Blue Wool Middle Layer

The single-layer wool dress I completed this past winter is pretty flexible. Since the sleeves are buttoned, I can wear them down or up, and I can wear this dress in a few different ways (and layer positions). It's also a nice medium weight, and though it's not wonderful in the heat, it's not the worst thing ever, and my body acclimates to it well enough.

Brown Wool Gown

With short, roomy sleeves this single-layer wool gown is incredibly comfortable. It will also only work as a surcotte. Like the blue wool the material isn't heavy, so it's not likely to overly stifle me when Pennsic hits the 90+ temps. Since it's the neutralest of neutral colors, it works with all three of my other picks, so if things get a bit chilly, two layers of wool would be possible with this one in my limited wardrobe. (I also realize that I still owe you a full post on this one.)

I will, of course, not slack on the under-items I need to pull these four dresses into a week's worth of outfits, but there will be a lot of airing out between wearings, and possibly a hand-washing of my supportive short cotte at a certain point in the week. And just to be on the safe side, my single-layer orange linen supportive dress may also make the trip on the chance that I need a lighter option.

You can be sure my entire hat box will also be joining me.

What about you? If you're going to Pennsic, would you accept the challenge of limiting your week's garb to just 4 pieces... or even fewer?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Just Checking In

I've been working hard on getting my husband's embroidered tunic done by July 4th. You can keep up with my progress on that over on Facebook.

Just a heads up: with the change in our family schedule with the end of school and the start of summer, and really nothing but that embroidery going on right now, things might stay a bit quiet here on the blog through the rest of the month. Thanks for sticking with me!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chapter Three: In Which Edyth Gains a Family

It might help to read Chapter One & Chapter Two first.

In the Middle Kingdom (and I'm sure other Kingdoms), a student is like a man-at-arms. There's an agreed associate between Master and student, but it's not formal. On the books, I was a student for 9 months. In reality, it had been clear to both of us fairly early on that something more formal was going to happen. Even better than that, we agreed pretty quickly that we wanted to go about it a certain way. So here, at the end of my tale, is how I became an apprentice to Master Cellach McChormach.

Interestingly enough, as he and I discussed what an apprenticing ceremony might be for us, we agreed that it would be best done as a business transaction. So yes, I'd spent all this time realizing that being somebody's apprentice wasn't just all business, but there we were, agreeing to start the whole thing off that way. It made a huge amount of sense to us, though. First, apprentice contracts are period. Second, an apprenticing is a civil relationship, so an oath like what would be done for a squiring felt out of place.

Period apprenticing contracts are interesting things. They dictate what behaviors each party would be allowed and/or required to do, both in the relationship and as people just living their lives. Women apprentices, for example, were often expressly forbidden in their contract to marry. And most medieval no-no's (like gambling or engaging in lewd behavior) were also highlighted as things not to do under contract. The contract is worked up twice, on each side of a single sheet. After signing and sealing, the contract is cut apart in a zig-zag or otherwise uneven line so that the two piece could be matched back up to prove their authenticity if needed. This jagged cut was known as "indenturing", so a contract of this type (and the relationship it dictated) could be referred to as an "indenture".

We asked my mom, THL Elspeth Clerk, to create the contract for us. Unlike most extant contracts, we liked the idea of a simple illumination in the center, so she created (knowing it would be cut) a vine band centered on a blue stag (a charge on His Excellency's device).

For the sealing, I created a silk fingerloop ribbon in my colors, and he made sealing wax using beeswax and frankincense. A simple die created for coins acted as his seal.

Border Raids, on May 16th, was wet. It rained on the way there. It rained when we started setting up. It rained during the battles. It even rained into our car. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that the contract was sitting (we thought safely) in the backend. Which was steadily turning into a puddle as the rain trickled through a crack in the roof. The scroll case could have been waiting for us anywhere else in the car, and would have been fine. But no.

I'm very proud of everyone involved in the discovery and rescue of the document. Nobody panicked or totally lost it. The scribes on duty that day came to our aid, drying the contract and pressing it to keep the wrinkles at bay. I'm so thankful to them and their quick thinking. And I'm so proud of my mom for everything she did to create the scroll and for not crying when she discovered it's state.

Comfortable with the fact that we at least still had a contract to sign, even if it was damaged, here's how the ceremony went down:

Master Cellach started everything by explaining what we were going to do and a bit about the use of indentures in period. It was important to us both that when we were in the moment of actually doing the apprenticing we weren't mixing mundane explanations with period practices. So when he finished with the information, he requested that we all shift our minds to being medieval.

After asking me if I was ready to proceed, I requested that the contract be read out loud so that our witnesses would know what it was we were about to agree to. He was adamant that he should read the contract rather than the printed text (still taped to the back), even with the damage. I have to give him props for that. Here's what the contract says:

"This indenture witnesses that Edyth Miller of Fenix places herself in apprentice to Master Cellach macChormach of the Middle Marches to learn what arts as she may and to serve him after the manner of an apprentice from the 14th day of the reign of Ragnvaldr III and Arabella III, and she shall not be released save by word of one of the said parties, or through her attaining mastery of her craft. During which term the said Edyth shall strive to be an eager and dedicated student to learn and further her craft and shall serve the said Cellach as master in all things lawful and honest, well and faithfully, courteously and diligently to the best of her power. She shall honestly and obediently bear and hold herself both in words and deeds towards her said Master and all his with dignity as a good and faithful apprentice ought according to the custom of the Kingdom of the Middle during all the said term. And the said Cellach shall keep the said Edyth as his apprentice and shall freely teach that which he knows, provide guidance and support in her endeavors, treat her with dignity and respect, and for her fidelity and all and singular aforesaid covenants on her part shall protect her from those who might do her harm. In witness whereof the aforesaid parties have set their hands."

Our wording differs from the period contracts in that we treated in more like an oath. We did not include specific behaviors (like me getting married) or things that he had to provide (like fabric or clothing). We like it this way, since it was much more comfortable for us to sign it, knowing that we weren't agreeing to anything we had no right to demand from each other.

After reading the contract, he asked me if I was still in agreement with it. Essentially, he was asking if I still wanted to be his apprentice. I agreed.

Using pen and ink (dip-style nibs), we signed the two sides together. Nobody got close enough to photograph our signatures. Which is a shame, really, since I'd been practicing.

I'd been wearing the ribbon I made on my arm, so I removed it and explained to our witnesses that the ribbon was to act as my authentic mark in place of a seal. I folded the ends of the contract up to protect the signatures. Then I cut the ribbon in half and threaded it through slits already cut into the contract. The wax had been melting over a candle up to that point, and was ready to be poured over the ribbon and pressed with the seal. It did have to sit a moment, but it dried pretty quickly.

While the seals set up, he proceeded with the markings of my association with him. First, since I don't typically wear belts (full disclosure: I had been wearing a belt all day before changing to keep my skirts out of the mud), rather than giving me a green belt as a symbol of my apprenticeship, he had made a green wool open hood for me. (Which is totally awesome.) For the days that I didn't wear the hood, he gave me a brass and enamel badge made in the style of a period funerary badge. It is a green belt encircling his livery of blue and white lozengy. This was made by Lady Faydwynn Randve. (And is also totally awesome.)

About the time I was getting my ribbons into place, Their Majesties joined us. With the seals set and carefully lifted from the tiles with a butter knife, Cellach asked His Majesty if he would do us the honor of indenturing the contract. Using a pair of period scissors, he cut the wavy indenturing line. This left one half with the body of the stag and the other with the stag's head upside down.

With the contract indentured, and gifts given, we concluded the ceremony. Hugging and applause all around.

His Majesty said it best later on in a Facebook comment. "A period ceremony, bringing friends together, making family, and everyone enjoying the experience. THIS is what the SCA is about. Thank you to all who were present."

My heart has been so full. I see this hobby not only from a new perspective, but with a new family by my side. I am no longer afraid. My ego has come to accept and understand that I'm not better than needing help. And I have gained so many new friends that I would have never known if I hadn't reached out. I have a partner I am inspired and encouraged by, and I am ready for the road ahead. However long, and wherever it may take me.

(Photos of the ceremony are courtesy of Countess Vukasin of Lozengia and Lady Marissa von Atzinger.)

[Disclaimer: This is my story and my perspective. I'm sharing it because you, dear reader, are my friend. It's not meant to be taken as advice. It's simply my testimonial.]

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chapter Two: In Which Edyth Obliterates Her Comfort Zone

If you haven't already, please read Chapter One first.

The moment in which I became a student didn't happen at the event that day. As I said, reality can be ill-timed. For a variety of reasons, we were unable to reconnect later in the day to have an actual talk. But in retrospect, that was undoubtedly for the best. My request was out there, hanging in the air for him to consider, and that was exactly where it needed to be. If I'd gotten an immediate yes, I would have been outwardly happy, but inwardly concerned that he was throwing due diligence to the wind, completely negating how much work I'd put into the whole thing up to that point.

In reality, the moment I became a student happened that Monday morning, through a Facebook chat. I hope you can appreciate the irony there.

Some Laurel/student relationships start off as friendships, or at least comfortable familiarity with each other. This new relationship was not one of those. While he and I certainly knew each other, we could barely have been considered personal acquaintances. I'd only ever known him as a Peer. First as a Knight, then Royalty, and finally as a Laurel. And as Chapter One likely told you, having a Peer like that in my circle had been unfathomable to me up to that point.

The honest truth was that, while I was looking for a relationship that was friendly, I really did not expect that an actual friendship would be a part of it. It was enough for me that I liked him as a person (as much as I knew him) as well as a Peer, and that I held him in the greatest respect. In all my thinking through the act of finding a Laurel, I'd only ever seen it as a business transaction. Two partners working toward their goals in tandem.

One by one almost immediately, however, I saw the barriers that separate strangers from friends breaking down between him and I. As in introvert with a capital I, having lived so long under that rock of isolation, I would never have thought myself capable of leaving the comforts of my home and family to spend a weekend in a strange house with a person, a Peer, I still barely knew. But in January, I did exactly that. I talked, listened, laughed and shared. Topics ranged all over, not just about the business of being his dependent. And the more we talked, the weaker the hold my comfort zone had on me.

I'd heard it said before that the relationship between Masters and their dependents, when it was right, was like a "mystical connection." I think that sounds like hokey, new age drivel, but I found myself saying things like "it feels right", "it's weird that we didn't know each other sooner", or "it's going so well." So it may be hokey, but it's apparently true. Under circumstances like that, friendship has no choice but to blossom. At the same time, isolation and worry begin to be replaced by confidence. The barriers begin to become transparent all around. Between Master and student, person and Peer, stranger and stranger. As I gained a friend in him, I looked for friendships with others. I became more comfortable with looking past coronets and medallions, and not waiting to be introduced to people I wanted to know.

A turning point happened for me in March. I was camping with a group other than the Midrealm at Gulf Wars, so after settling in on the first day, I walked over to the Midrealm camp to see if I could be of any assistance. I wasn't, but while I was standing there, I saw three guys I could introduce myself to. One of these guys was a Duke. Without a single shred of anxiety or fear, I introduced myself to him.

The rock I'd been living under? Blown to smithereens. Over the course of the week, as I was introduced to other Peers (and people in general), I wandered so far away from my comfort zone, I wouldn't have been able to find it again with a GPS and a search dog.

Now, I'm not saying that my all my fears had been obliterated. Socially awkward, introverted people will always have moments when they worry about saying the wrong thing or looking like a fool. The difference for me at this point, however, was that I was among friends, and I was realizing that I always had been.

As all these barriers were disappearing, I opened up to my Laurel in deeper, more meaningful ways. And he to me in his own way. The word "comfortable" barely covers it. Through this process of moving from pride and fear to the humility of a new friendship, I had never felt so much at home and in love with this hobby. Being able to openly connect with a person whom you admire and respect, and to be free to laugh and cry with them, look them in the eye and admit your faults, and care for them in ways you can't put into words, without judgement or pressure from anyone, is an amazing experience that very few avenues in life offer us. And there is no possible way I would ever have been able to experience that if I was still clinging to the comfort zone of pride and fear.

With a friendship established, then, and hearts full of joy, it was time for both of us to take one more step.

Tomorrow, read the amazing conclusion in Chapter Three: In Which Edyth Gains a Family.

[Disclaimer: This is my story and my perspective. I'm sharing it because you, dear reader, are my friend. It's not meant to be taken as advice. It's simply my testimonial.]

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chapter One: In Which Edyth Faces Her Fears

Over the next three days, I'm going to share a story with you. And it starts like this:

In October of 2014, I did something pretty scary. I approached a Laurel about becoming an apprentice.

For months prior to that, I'd started to think differently about the SCA and my role within it. For years, I relied on the belief that if I asked someone further down the road for help, it meant that I was giving up. I would be giving up my independence, and completely throwing out the window my ability to reach my goals on my own- to earn them under my own merit. This line of thinking, which was really just my ego taking the lead, had left me feeling alone, ostracized and even afraid. I was gripped by "Peer fear", to an awful degree. By buying into the mistaken belief that accepting friendship and association with anybody with the slightest hint of influence would damage my "self-reliance", I was only making things worse for myself. I was living under a rock, and it was cold and lonely, and the farthest place from The Dream I could get. I was ready to get out from under the rock. I was ready to find out what I was missing.

Eventually, I realized that finding a Laurel and seeing where an apprenticeship took me wasn't sacrificing anything. If the Laurel was right for me, and if I was clear about my goals, then my independence wouldn't be stomped out, and instead of simply earning my goals by myself, I would have a coach to help me reach them, and a cheerleader to keep me going. I would have an advocate, and a sounding board, and in at least some small way, a friend.

So right away, I knew what I wasn't looking for. I wasn't interested in being swallowed up in somebody else's household or overshadowed by their personality (or even the story of their own SCA journey). I didn't want someone that would dictate or direct me toward their own goals instead of mine. Or for what they thought were my goals but really weren't. I didn't want someone I would always feel inferior to, or someone I was never perfectly comfortable around.

And right now, you're reading these things and going "Who would want any of that?!" And you're right, but part of the journey out from under the rock was to recognize these things as fears. By listing them out for myself, I could see how ridiculous they were, and at the same time arm myself against settling for any of them.

Part of the process for me, you see, was getting over a fear I didn't want to admit- the fear that I was worthless, and that I would be forced to settle because none of my top picks would want me as their apprentice. I had been in or around the SCA for 18 years by that point, an active in my local region and kingdom for 12 of them, and no Laurel had ever approached me in all that time. No one came to me and said "Hey, I think you've got a lot of potential, and I'd like to help you reach your goals." Or even anything remotely like that. There's an interesting dichotomy that happens when ego and low-self-esteem collide. I don't recommend it. It's ugly and jealous and sensitive to even the most innocent slight. And it's absolutely no way to play in the SCA.

There is no single journey. No "one true path" to attaining your goals. At some point, I had to look in the mirror and remind myself of this. So what if I'd never been asked by a Laurel to be their apprentice? There were thousands of reasons that would happen, and not all of them were bad. Could it have been because I was already on the right track, and doing quite well on my own as it was? Or that people assumed I was already a dependent? That sort of stuff happens all the time, so why shouldn't it have possibly been the case for me too?

So for months, I'd allowed myself to think through all of this. I day-dreamed with myself about what being out from under the rock might look like. I ran myself through what-ifs and how-comes and why-nots. I had a list of 5 potential Laurels I could ask, ranked in an order, and I vetted the crap out of it. I've never done so much due diligence in my life. That sounds ridiculous to me now, but all that "process" was part of what we can call my rehabilitation- my progress from being scared and alone to being ready to ask for a partner.

I use the word "partner" deliberately, because though all this vetting, I realized that I wasn't just looking for a mentor or teacher. I was looking for somebody who would treat me like an adult, take my perspective seriously, and respect that, with 18 years under my belt, I had already accomplished a great deal. Someone who would celebrate the ways in which we can learn from each other. A partner is a person that recognizes that we're in this together, and rank is really the only thing that separates us. A good partner wants you to be their equal and for the rank barrier to go away.

By April, I'd worked it all out. I had one name on my list that survived the vetting, and I was incredibly confident that it was the right choice for countless reasons I'll keep to myself. But there was still one thing to overcome. Peer fear.

I remember dozens of times between May and October in which I pulled up the chat window on Facebook, and hovered over that one name for minutes at a time. On a few occasions, I actually wrote something, like "Will you be going to Such-n-such Event this weekend? I'd like to have a chance to speak with you if you have time." Then I would stare at it. My hands would shake and my heart would pound in my chest. Warm all over; butterflies. If I've ever come close to an anxiety attack, those moments would be it. It sounds so ludicrous. I wasn't doing anything incorrect. It was good business, and a perfectly acceptable way to go about it. If you've never understood Peer fear, I don't expect this to make sense. For those of you that do, however, I'm sure this is all too familiar.

During this time, I felt the ticking of the clock. Every moment that I wasted by not reaching out was taking me one step closer to going back under that rock. I put pressure on myself to continually answer the question, "What are you so afraid of?" The answer was always the same. I wasn't afraid of changing my course and going in a new direction, nor was I afraid of what being someone's dependent would mean for me. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of "no". I was afraid of making a fool of myself. And there really isn't anything to do with that answer but to get comfortable with it. To be alright with the "no" or with saying something stupid. Qué será, será.

That day in October was a pretty weird day, with bitterly cold weather, and a laid-back schedule that reminded me so much of my earliest events- when people gathered in garb to experience something magical together without worrying about how well they fought, or how good they looked. I had just finished my double "midwife" apron, and man was I glad for the extra layer. I was also glad my mom and I had gone by ourselves without any of the kids, especially when it began to snow briefly in the middle of the day. We spent a lot of the day huddled together on the ground by the list field, or tucked inside the lodge near the fireplace.

You know, day dreams and what-ifs only get you so far. They can help you get past fear and pride and all the things holding you back. They can help you recognize what you want and how you want it to happen. But reality is better. Hands down. Reality is not perfect (at least not always). It can be cold, and awkward, and inconveniently timed. But that moment when you take the step off the ledge can only be experienced one way.

I took that step. "I would like to be your apprentice, if you would consider it." No forewarning. No preamble or prologue. A big spoonful of hot soup in his mouth right when I asked it. And I didn't fall into the abyss of rejection. Instead, I heard four words that immediately felt like a hand reaching out and a hug around my soul.

"I would consider it."

Stay tuned for Chapter Two: In Which Edyth Obliterates Her Comfort Zone.

[Disclaimer: This is my story and my perspective. I'm sharing it because you, dear reader, are my friend. It's not meant to be taken as advice. It's simply my testimonial.]

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On My Worktable

As we head into summer (and it's been so hot, it like summer is already here), my project list is starting to thin out. Which is good, because I don't like having too many things on my list when it's time for all that fun family stuff that happens in the summer months. Let's face it, it's more fun to hang out in the pool on a hot day than to sew a dress inside. That being said, I do have a handful on projects in the works that still need attention.

Last week, I started work on the last dress I'll sew for a while (at least until fall). This year has already been incredibly productive on the dress front, but I had one more piece of fabric in my stash that finally "spoke" to me. I've been wanting to have a surcoat for the 1390's since Gulf Wars, and the chocolate brown wool I've had since last year is perfect for it. Yes, yes, I know. Wool in summer. But Gulf Wars allowed me to appreciate that while wool is not ideal for 80+ temps, it's not the worst thing either. As long as I make smart decisions about how I wear a wool dress, and don't stand out in the sun, it's not all that much more uncomfortable than wearing a few layers of linen. After all, hot is hot, not matter how you slice it.

Stab stitching on the edge of the front opening. Buttons and buttonholes pending.
The dress is assembled (I used the same pattern I've been using all year), but is still missing sleeves. Over the next few days, I'll concentrate my efforts on the exterior finishing. My goal with the garment is to achieve well-crafted detailing by putting my hand-sewing skills to best use. 

I have several embroideries in-progress, but I haven't felt like working on them. At the moment, I'm finishing up the last of three Queens' favors I'm contributing for Pennsic. I also have my linen alms purse and silk bag, but I haven't touched either of those in quite a bit.

I started a bag using long-arm cross stitch and a pattern I created from an extant piece. The two sides of the orginal pouch are essentially color reversed, which it neat. The figures are harpies- head of a woman, body of a bird, tail of a snake. Bizarre and beautiful. The spaces between the harpies have letters, but I couldn't distinguish what they are (and they probably don't spell and English word anyway). I haven't figured out what I'll do in the spaces in my version.

The big embroidery project is the tunic I need completed by July 4th. I've shown this in the past, and unfortunately, not much about it has changed. Once my new dress is complete, however, I'm putting the brakes on everything but that tunic. Get-er-done, as they say.

There are other projects of a secretive nature. Hush, hush, and all that. I always have those, though. I try to fit them in when and how I can, but they do definitely fill out the project list.

What about you? What's on your work table?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Video Tutorial: Early 15th Century Horned Veil

The other day I was goofing off with my headdress stash (which I do a pretty fair amount of), when I came across a way of pinning a veil around a shaped foundation piece that resulted in a closer representation of early 15th century veiling than some of my previous attempts without needing to use more than one veil. After a bit more experimentation, I believe I have something useful in sharing, if still not entirely perfect or "accurate". The best way for me to share this is obviously video format, so let's start with that:

Before getting into some source references, let's get the technical details out of the way. The rectangular veil is 27" x 34" and is a mid-light-weight linen (probably 3.5oz). I've shared the horns before, but here's the post where I first shared it, and you can see that I've come a long way!

I referenced that the look was akin to Rogier van der Weyden's "Lady Wearing a Gauze Headdress" (circa 1435), so it makes sense to start with that one (below). There are, obviously, some differences, but as I said in the video, using a larger veil and playing around with where you are pinning might bring the look even closer to this example.

"Lady Wearing a Gauze Headdress", Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1435

After reviewing my video, though, I was struck by how closely my version ended up being to another of van der Weyden's examples- the female donor in his 1445 "The Crucifixion" triptych (below). In fact, pulling that image up, and comparing to what I was able to create, I am 80% sure that something like my technique is at play. Note the wrinkling of the veil both around the base of the foundation, but also over the top. The horizontal width of the veil in comparison to her shoulder width. The oddness of the draping at the back- something like a fold, rather than a free-flowing hemmed edge.

Detail from "The Crucifixion" (triptych) by Rogier van der Weyden, 1445.
Some examples found in the more allegorical or biblical scenes painted by the early Flemish masters, such as "The Nativity" by Robert Campin, 1420, (detail below), give the very clear impression that some veiled styles used a single veil worked in more than one direction to create a head covering. In the example below, the midwife's assistant, Salome (an Apocryphal inclusion to the nativity story), wears what appears to be a large veil pinned into place from the back around the foundation pieces, then hiked up (rather than flipped all the way back over like mine) to cover the top in messy folds. The bottom of the veil still drapes at the back. If I had a long enough veil, I think this one would be fun to attempt.
Detail from "The Nativity", Robert Campin, 1420
Additionally, there are a handful of examples in Des cleres et nobles femmes (BL MS Royal 20 C V, after 1403), including this one below (sorry about the quality), that show layers of draping between the dog ear corners and the back, consistent with what this method produces. The veil size here is smaller than what I show in the video.

Detail from BL MS Royal 20 C V, fol. 135v.
There's also an example from Thebais and Achilles (BL MS Burney 257, circa 1405.) below with a soft draping across the forehead, between the horns, in keeping with what I'm achieving. The fact that these more curved drapes were being depicted gives hope for the plausibility of this kind of recreation technique.

Detail from BL MS Burney 257, fol. 87v.
As always, I encourage you to not just take my word for it. Experiment on your own with what you have and keep an eye out in the period record for examples to emulate. And, above all, have fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Disaster Area

Keepin' it real.
After a full on "making blitz" over the past three months, my craft room is a mess. Scraps of dresses are strewn about the floor, and a bazillion embroidery bits and pieces are scattered across my desk. Add into that several mundane projects, a dash of crafting ADD, and voila- disaster area. So instead of doing a blog post for you today, I'm going to hole myself up with coffee and a trashcan, and see if I can straighten this mess out.

After all, that is what Spring is for, right?