When I found out that Iselda de Narbonne was going to receive her Laurel, I may have demanded to make her mantle. I don’t know. It’s all a little fuzzy.
Due to life, the timeline on construction got a little tight, so the foundation seams were all machine sewn. However, every single visible stitch was hand-sewn, and the applique and beads were done entirely by hand. The fabric and thread is 100% silk. Every fabric used is a two-tone that shimmers when in motion, some more subtly than others. The pearls are glass Swarovski pearls.
I was asked to say something about the mantle as it was presented to her, but initially all I could think of was “A badass bard deserves a badass mantle, and I hope this makes you cry.” However, inspiration struck two nights beforehand, so I wrote her a poem that I read:
From sweet soil sprouts the laurel,
But limbs and leaves with labor grow
dewy drupes. Devotion and time
Furnished fruits fair to the ear,
Foliate and flourishing, brought forth
Verdant voices in choral concordance.
Now a mantle marks the mastership attained
Proclaims to peers: perceive this Laurel
with seeds of song to sow and nourish.
Amang ic seowede nihtlang ic sticode me foroft.
Æt þære wæfersyne wundormentles, þīn wopdropum ic ahope.
The last two lines, in Old English, translate directly to “While I sewed through the night, I stabbed myself often. At the spectacle of the wonder-mantle, I hope for your tears.” In other words, “I hope it makes you cry.”
Several years ago, my friend Liz passed a washed merino fleece off to me. During summer 2020, I decided to finish processing it and spin it. The staple was quite short, so I decided to card it into rolags. Carding was a little difficult, because I didn’t have the right density of teeth in my cards, but by the end my rolags were looking pretty nice. I spun the rolags using a short forward draw, because it gave me a lot of control over the really short fibers.
Once the yarn was finished, I decided it was the perfect amount to split into smaller skeins for my madder dyeing adventure (coming soon!).
It’s hard being a royal bard during the midst of a pandemic. Online bardics aren’t quite the same. So, I decided to make something that would be the only tangible part of my tenure as the King’s Bard. The Royal Bard Box of Atlantia is a beautiful, handmade box that has earned far more ire than it deserves for its solid construction and the three-dimensional shell on the lid (which makes it heavy to carry, and difficult to stack anything on top of). It is, however, the perfect height for a stool.
Therefore, I decided to weave a cushion for the box, with a cavity for the shell to fit into. Even if future bards decide not to use it as a seat, the cushion will allow other items to be stacked on top; it would also be a lovely place to set a guest of honor in a bardic circle.
There’s a lot of memories in the yarn. The blue yarn was some of the first that I hand-dyed, in a flat in Scotland with vinegar and food coloring. I’ve had similar yarn in a sunny place for a while, so while I know it will fade, it won’t fade overly much. The grey yarn was some of the first I purchased as a crocheter (before I even learned to knit!), and the creamy-white was rescued from a charity shop in Scotland. The warp yarn is cotton that I purchased in a caravanserai in Istanbul. While it is difficult to tell in the pictures, the shell is outlined in silver, which I’m also currently using to embroider a banner. The entire cushion was woven using tapestry techniques on a rigid-heddle loom.
In addition to sewing Mistress Ysabeau’s Laurel cloak, I spun the wool for her vigil shawl. Ysabeau has made several vigil shawls for other people, so my friend Lucy (Lucy of Wigan) and I decided that we must make Ysabeau her own. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the yarn-in-progress. The wool was off-white merino from Paradise Fibers, and it was an utter delight to spin. Once the yarn was spun up and washed, I threw together a simple triangular shawl pattern, did a tab cast-on, and passed it off to Lucy to knit. Once she was done with her beautiful knitting, we blocked it together.
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.
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.
After taking a class on natural dyeing using different yellows and indigo in May 2019 at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I decided it was finally time to dye the Romney fleece I bought in 2017. However, I wanted to test sun-colorfastness first, as I had noticed some garments that I dyed with commercial dyes were fading significantly after 2 years of SCA wear and washing.
I decided I wanted to test weld, madder, and indigo (the great triumvirate of medieval dyes) plus cochineal; I also wanted to test these dyes in combination.
In May 2017, right before I joined the SCA, I purchased my first-ever fleece at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I chose a pretty Romney with long locks and nice crimp, and decided to wash it lock-by-lock. However, when I washed it, I noticed that most of the locks had at least an inch of canary stains (yellowing that weakens the fibers starting at the tips). I decided that I should try dyeing it for tapestry, but because of that decision, it sat in storage for two years.
Fast-forward to May 2019, when I took a natural dyeing class at Maryland Sheep and Wool, and I decided it was time to finish processing that fleece (which gave me an excuse to buy another while I was there). With the help of some Dawn soap, tap-hot water, an assembly-line-style set-up, and a three-day weekend in the fall, I finally got the whole fleece washed and stored.
In fall 2019, I wanted to improve my embroidery, so I drew a knotwork design that I decided to fill using a combination of satin stitch and split stitch. It’s still in progress, as knotwork takes a long time!
For the second year in a row, I was proud to be a member of the Ottoman Mehter Takımı, or Janissary Band, at Pennsic. I was also asked to put together a display of the band’s material culture for the Known World A&S Display. I enjoyed coordinating it, and writing the materials allowed me to learn even more about the Mehteran! In this post, I’ve included photographs of the display and of my new uniform. After the cut is the display’s sign text.
Many thanks to Maggie Hays for the photos of the display below. It was rather hard to photograph, as it was long (two tables!) and tall (standards and flags!).
For my efforts in the A&S display, I was named an onbaşı (corporal) in September 2019.
As part of my individual efforts, I made a new uniform that was much more accurate than the one I wore in 2018.
For my new uniform, I made a new red coat, kaftan, pants, turban, and cross-body bag. Because I was making these close to Pennsic, most items were machine-sewn; however, I hand-finished the coat. I also made some prayer beads as an accessory to hang from my sash (and fiddle with while we were waiting to march!). I’m really happy with my uniform now, but for the next march I plan to update my hat (time for a historically accurate one — read below!) and my yellow sash (it’s just too flimsy.)