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.
The body of the cloak is wool fabric from Burnley and Trowbridge sewn with a light fingering weight wool yarn that I already had (and happened to match perfectly!). Because the fabric is fulled and doesn’t fray, I didn’t need to flatfell. I usually flatfell for strength, though, so I backsewed all the construction seams to make up for that. The body is made of wedges, but the collar is rounded.
The appliqued laurel wreath and device is a mixture of fulled plainweave wool (laurel leaves, red goutes on the device), wool twill (black field of the device), and silk (wavy bend). It is appliqued with a mixture of 20/2 silk thread and silk sewing thread. The ermine spots on the black field were embroidered with 20/2 silk thread. The wool is from Burnley and Trowbridge, the silk fabric is from Dharma Trading, and the 20/2 silk thread is from Eowyn de Wever.
The cloak is lined fully in black silk (also from Dharma Trading) sewn with black silk thread. The clasp (two fox heads, for Mistress Ysabeau’s fox badge) is from Cloakmakers. The lining was sewn into wool facings on the front edges and the collar, but given a light loose tacking at the seams on the hem.
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.
The first layer was where I used the grey linen. Although a standard tunic, I played with the gores on this for fit. Instead of having hip-height gores, I put in long trapezoidal ones that stretched from the edge of the sleeve to the hem. The sleeves are also my first fitted sleeves that would require a closure. I tablet-wove trim for the neck and cuffs out of silk in two different widths with slightly different patterns. Both used the same threading, but I cut out warp threads for the cuffs and turned the cards fewer times. As there is some archaeological evidence for belts on this layer, I wove a three-inch-wide belt out of wool that was wide enough to wrap twice around. I wrapped this under my bust almost as a supportive layer, and it was quite comfortable (and kept me standing up very straight!). On top of this layer I put a black silk peplos–no progress photos for this, as it’s just a big ole silk tube. (Do I need to say everything was handsewn and flatfelled? It’s me–assume it was unless I say otherwise).
As I took a silversmithing class in June 2019, I decided to make all the fittings I could for this garb. Two hours of work in the silversmithing studio, and I had two nearly-matching annular brooches, two wrist clasps, and a circlet! For the annular brooches, I tried different orders of operation for each; on one I soldered the pin shut first, on the other I soldered the brooch ring shut first. The latter technique seemed to work better for me. While annular brooches in period seem to be cast instead of forged, I haven’t learned to cast metals yet, so this worked for my current skill-set. The wrist-clasps were inspired by a historical find that didn’t have an attachment, but I made the hook a little shorter than I should have.
I realized a few days before the event that I hadn’t made a belt pouch. A quick Google led me to a couple different patterns, which seemed to follow most rectangular pouches but inserted a ring around the mouth and included a strap. I used the last remaining inches of the trim for the strap; the lining was leftover linen and the outside was leftover silk. I even made the ring from some junk wire! It was more than big enough to carry everything I needed, and fit my spindle in it quite well.
However, the peace I am most pproud of was my rune-belt. Four yards tablet-woven out silk, this took me over 22 hours from start to finish. It wraps twice around my body and hangs nearly to my hem. It was my first complicated pattern and my first double-faced weaving, and I came up for the runes’ patterns myself (you can see how I refined the letters in each repeat). The runes literally say “ic spinne þone þræd wyrde,” which is Old English for “I spin the thread of fate.”
So, on Twelfth Night, I was able to say that I made everything I wore except the rings on my right hand.
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.)
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:
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.
In 2019, I decided to make Ottoman Turkish garb for a Near-East-themed Twelfth Night — and won for Best Themed Garb in the Garb Runway Competition! I unfortunately got almost no pictures from the event, but below the cut I have my full documentation, progress photos, and pictures of the finished garb.
For Twelfth Night 2019, Vadoma organized an artisans’ exchange. I immediately signed up and was assigned Mistress Greer. Knowing her love for frogs and later-than-my-time persona, I was struck by inspiration: a frog on a lily-pad!
The “lily-pad” is a Tudor-style wool flat cap, knitted and fulled. The “frog” is a needle-felted wool pincushion; his spots are black-headed pins. The “flower” is two sets of inkle-woven trim, one purple-pink-white and one yellow-white with beads.
We were also requested to write a story about our objects!