When Baron Hamish MacLeod found out that his wife, Baroness Ysabeau ferch Gwalchaved, was going to be surprised with her Laurel at Bright Hills Baronial Birthday in February 2020, he asked me to create her Laurel cloak. Now-Mistress Ysabeau is a spinner, weaver, and sewer who handsewed garb for one of her first events 32 years ago (in a time and place when handsewn garb was actually looked down on — how far we have come!) so I knew I had to pull out all the stops I had.
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:
In summer of 2019, I made my first pair of shoes with Michel Almond de Champagne’s shoe kit. They were remarkably easy, and will fill a nice gap in my wardrobe, as they will work roughly for most time periods.
The leather and rubber soles came in the kit, which I handsewed with silk thread. The shoes fit very well both with and without socks, but the soles are incredibly thin, even with a pair of insoles. Because of this, I only plan to wear these when I know I will mostly be standing on dirt or grass.
In April 2019 I had the pleasure of leading the Shire of Roxbury Mill team at Revenge of the Stitch, a 24-hour sewing competition. After consulting with our model, Ava Deinhardt, we settled on a 12th-century bliaut. I was particularly interested in bliauts, as they’ve been finicky to pin down, and I happen to know Dr. Monica L. Wright, an expert on bliauts, and I wanted to apply her research.
After several requests for our team’s documentation, I am posting it here. You can also download a PDF copy.
I made this bag for Lochmere Midwinters in January 2019 as part of their Pilgrim Bag competition. The picture shows the fabric a much darker blue than it is in real life.
Materials & Techniques
Outside Bag Body
- Material: Wool, handwoven on a rigid heddle loom, fulled, and hand-dyed in indigo
- Techniques: Handsewn with commercially-dyed wool
- Materials: Linen (commercially woven)
- Techniques: Handsewn and felled with cotton thread
- Materials: Commercially-dyed wool in Atlantian colors
- Techniques: Inkle-woven and handsewn onto the bag’s back
- Fluffy fluffy goodness made of wool
- Don’t worry! The badge hasn’t gone missing: this is the bag’s first “pilgrimage,” so it does not have a badge yet! After this event, I will sew a badge (perhaps a Spike?) to the front flap.
Pattern & Construction
Thanks to Mistress Karen Larsdatter’s links pages, I first found the pattern by Sabine Scholl, the pattern by Myriam Gateault, and the translation of Scholl’s pattern by Lord Coblaith Muimnech (Ansteorra). In several manuscript images on these pattern pages, there were blue bags with white tassels and details (Atlantian colors!). I then remembered the wool cloth that I had handwoven, fulled, and dyed in indigo—it would be perfect for this bag! Addendum 2019: I used a small rigid-heddle loom to weave the cloth out of a rough commercial wool; I then fulled wool by putting it in my home’s washer/dryer and forgetting about it!
While I prefer the look of the trapezoidal bag in these patterns and illuminations, I wanted to use every inch of my handwoven/hand-dyed fabric, so I settled on a rectangular bag (but still with tassels, because who doesn’t love tassels?). Because the final construction was simple folding and bag-lining (pun definitely intended), I did not use a pattern; I relied on the dyed fabric’s width and cut the lining to match.
Finally, while straps in illuminations are usually a single color, I wanted to reinforce the Atlantian colors of the bag body, so I patterned the inkle-woven strap with white and multi-toned, asymmetrical blue stripes. I wove a long enough piece to serve as a strap, then sewed it to the back of the bag to create the same visual, from the front, that I saw in the exemplars. Addendum 2019: I used a modern inkle loom to weave the strap. The asymmetrical blue stripes were a necessity, as I had a limited amount of match yarn remnants!
These three exemplars gave me confidence that a blue-and-white square bag with tassels could be possible across multiple centuries.
Lord Coblaith Muimnech, Lord. “Trapezoidal Shoulder Bag.” Coblaith, http://www.coblaith.net/Bags/TrapezoidalBag/default.html.
Karen Larsdatter, Mistress. “Pilgrims’ Bags.” Medieval & Renaissance Material Culture, http://www.larsdatter.com/pilgrims-bags.htm.
Myriam Gateault. “Schmuck und Accesoires – Pilgertasche.” Diu Minnezît, https://www.diu-minnezit.de/realie_details.php?sid=0&lid=0&rid=119&tid=1.
Sabine Scholl. “Mittelartliche Umhängetasche.” Tempora Nostra, http://www.tempora-nostra.de/mode_umhaengetasche.shtml.
I painted my first scroll blank in 2017, the same year I joined the SCA. The elements were an amalgamation of elements from early 15th century manuscripts (I believe I pulled from BNF MSs. Français 117-120, which was made between 1400 and 1425, with some modifications to the illuminations in the 1460s). I then entered this scroll into the Twelfth Night scroll blank competition in 2019.
Photograph is courtesy of Tannis Baldwin, as I am awful at remembering to photograph my own items!