For a long time I’ve wanted to make reading Gawain and the Green Knight into an annual tradition around the New Year, as the poem itself is placed around the New Year.
However, 2020 was a long year, so I wanted to share it with others. At the beginning of the panic I read the entirety of Beowulf in Old English via impromptu streams on Facebook. This time, for Gawain, I made a long recording in garb (with new appropriate accessories!) and premiered it on New Year’s Eve and New Year Day. The videos are permanently on YouTube, so you can watch the whole playlist here or watch the videos via the embeds below.
On occasion, I like to play around with 1350s-1425 England and France, and for New Year, I decided I wanted to record a reading of Gawain and the Green Knight in Middle English… but I didn’t have winter-appropriate garb. However, I had a little more of a yard of navy blue linen, and I had some leftover madder-red wool from Ysabeau’s cloak, so it was time to make some accessories!
For the hood, I was inspired by a hood from a manuscript of the Prose Lancelot (Fonds Français 119, folio 354v). The woman wears a fashionable madder-red hood that projects forth from her face; I was a particular fan of the crazy-long liripipe. My pattern was modeled from a similar linen hood I made in a class several years ago, with adjustments based on advise from The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant by Sarah Thursfield. All seams were hand-sewn with wool. Since the wool is tightly fulled, the edges are left raw, and I didn’t flatfell the seams. The liripipe was a particular challenge, as it was a tight pieced tube; instead of having a lumpy end, I simply cut the tip and left it raw.
This was also my first time making self-stuffed buttons, which with the thick wool was a challenge. I used silk thread to initially gather the buttons, as silk was stronger than my wool thread (which liked to break), but I finished each button and sewed it on with wool.
I discovered through the process that I quite enjoy making buttonholes! These were also a learning experience (I don’t remember the last time I handsewed one — if ever?), but each was a delight, and by the end they were getting pretty even.
Other women in the same mansucript as my hood inspiration are wearing overdresses with short sleeves and long, knuckle-length undersleeves, which encouraged me to match the hood with some false sleeves. When I first bought this navy blue linen, I knew I wanted to make some Atlantian pride sleeves with spikes, so I also cut stamps for the first time! I used a Speedball lino cutting tool and carving block, which while not historically accurate are very user-friendly. I drew and cut an Atlantian Spike, and I also cut a millcross for my shire (for future usage); enjoying it way too much, I cut a second mirror-image Spike so I could print alternating Spikes.
This was my first time printing fabric, and I have limited space, so there was some entertaining layouts on a bedroom floor with a yoga mat, towels, and way too many paper towels. I initially wanted to use silver paint, but the silver paint wasn’t pigmented enough to print clearly (and on a white linen test print ended up a dingy gray). After some trial and error, I landed on an undiluted white acrylic craft paint; I tried mixing the paint with a fabric medium, but it did not give a clear print. My printing wasn’t particularly consistent, but drastically improved in the process, and I’m looking forward to showing people where my printing experience began and ended while wearing these sleeves!
In making up the sleeves, I half-lined them just past the planned buttons so that I would have a contrast color when turning back the long cuffs. I cut them so that the cuffs just reach my knuckles, which is consistent with other sleeves I saw in the manuscript. The buttons are (appropriately) Spike buttons that were favors from previous A&S displays and competition, and I again enjoyed making buttonholes way too much. The linen was sewn and flatfelled with cotton, but the buttonholes were sewn with linen thread (the buttons were also sold on with linen). The final sleeves are skin-tight, and make me feel very fashionable!
Wrote a poem! Did my first calligraphy! Threw in some illumination from the Book of Kells!
I was sick so the poem wasn’t as dramatic as I wanted it to be and the whole thing was late!
To Cuan, king of considerable worth:
Your bard begs you a brief moment
of time, attention, tolerance, and reprieve.
A report of a birthday reached my ears–
so a chronicle I conceive for the King of Atlantia,
a poem of his prowess, praising his might
with words of wisdom to warn and advise,
extolling the integrity of one .viii. times a king.
But unbidden, an illness attacked my form,
muddled my mind and mystified my pen.
Now my reason returns, revived and hale,
But the moment is missed! Mournfully thus
I weakly write a wish, with all goodwill
of a belated birthday from your King’s Bard.
Before Gideon ap Stephen was Laurelled at Ymir 2020, Mistress Rosalind asked me to translate the poem she had written to release Gideon from his apprenticeship into Old English. I happily did so — I love translations and find it a great challenge! Below is the text that I sent her; I also sent her a (very rough) recording for pronunciation. While I usually don’t use ċ (/ch/) or ġ (/j/) in my translations as they are entirely a modern conceit for transcription, I included them here to help indicate the pronunciation differences from c (/k/) and g (/g/) for performance.
Breostsefa = mind or heart, literally “the mind in the breast”
Cyneword-cempa for þære cuþre worulde
Cyneword-cempa = champion of fitting words
Rof for reþnesse in randgebeorh eadmede-folces
Randgebeorh = protection such as that afforded by a shield
Seldlic in feaxe stefn geofon-sidu
Seldlic = rare, strange, wondrous, extraordinary, having unusual good qualities Sid = wide, broad, spacious, and is specifically usually applied to the ocean, world, and universe
þurh wordcræft ond woþcræft þin gewald þu geseþe
Syntax of second half-line is “your prowess you show” wordcræft = the art of speaking and writing woþcræft = the art of poetry or song gewald = power, mastery (I chose it for the latter meaning)
Ure gomenwaþu to-gædere on geongum ond byrum
Syntax of second half-line is “of travels and times”; I chose to make plural because there was presumably more than one Byre has many meanings, but I particularly like the translation of “an event, a favourable time, an opportunity”
Nihtlangum leoþurunum listum ond sceaftum
Syntax of second half-line is “craft and creation” nihtlang = night-long leoþurun = counsel conveyed in verse (I thought this meaning was appropriate!) list = art, skill, cunning, craft, artifice
At some point in the murky past (that is, 2019), Kaaren, Adelaide, and I made a joke about how we’re the three Fates. I am, of course, the spinner Clotho, Adelaide the measurer Lachesis, and Kaaren the inflexible/cutter Atropos. When we discovered that we all had bought (or wanted to buy) the same grey linen, we decided to make Fates-themed garb in our preferred styles (we also managed to be chronological as well!). For a deadline, we set Twelfth Night 2020.
Because I was doing early period English, I felt a little guilty that my garb wouldn’t be as complicated and require as much hard work as Adelaide and Kaaren’s. So I decided to make everything I wore.
In early 2019, Master Eldred Ælfwald requested that Lady Kaaren Valravn create his court baron scroll (scroll information here). In turn, she asked Lord Ishmael Reed to write an original poem and me to translate the poem into Old English. Ishmael wrote the poem in the style of the 14th-century alliterative revival, which I then translated into Old English alliterative verse.
Battle on the Bay 2019 had an Epona-themed challenge—and as a horse lover, I had to enter something. I was on a huge knotwork kick, and I wanted something soothing, so I combined knotwork, a horse-shoe shape, and the Staffordshire Hoard’s “stylized horse” in this scroll blank. Materials are permanent pen and gouache
In Spring/Summer 2019 my friend Adelaide decided it was finally time to tackle a project she’d been wanting to do: a genderbent, period-accurate outfit based on Disney’s Rapunzel. As a knitter, I immediately volunteered to knit her a flat cap and garters. I was not particularly good at taking photos of my work before passing it off to Adelaide, but luckily our friend Kaaren Valravn took an excellent photo of Adelaide in the garb this fall where the garters and hat are perfectly visible.
In the summer of 2019, I went on a small jewellery/beading jag.
Left, top to bottom: necklace that doubles as circlet made of amber on beader’s wire; amber drop earrings; glass bead swag with removable beads (cord is beader’s wire with silver beads); amber and copper bead swag on beader’s wire for Old English garb (with brooches). These are all for wearing with my Old English garb.
Right, left to right: Pearl-and-amber paternoster on silk with silk tassel; green-stone-and-amber paternoster on cotton with cotton tassel; green stone prayer beads on cotton with cotton tassel. The first two paternosters are to wear with my 14th-century garb, while the prayer beads are for my Ottoman garb.
In early 2019, I finally finished my first-ever 15th-century fitted and self-supporting dress. Described in reenactment circles as a “Gothic fitted dress” or GFD, mine was inspired by a fieldhand in June page from the Très Riches Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry: