Category: Time

“Gawain and the Green Knight” in Middle English

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.

Hood and Sleeves from ~1400

Displaying the accessories: a fashionable hood and sleeves

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!

Ms. fr. 119, folio 354v
Buttons and buttonhole close-up

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.

Finished hood with crazy-long liripipe and a fashionable pewter badge

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.

Atlantian Spike and Roxbury Mill millcross

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.

Test prints on cardstock with acrylic paint

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!

A Mantle and a Poem for Iselda

Iselda during court, having received the mantle.

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.”

Back of collar detail.

Center bottom border detail

Draped on a chair, from the back.

Draped on a chair, from the front.
Folded in half, draped on a sofa. Yes, it’s huge.
Iselda displaying the back after court.
Iselda displaying the front after court.

A Poem and a Card

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!

Text:

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.

Translation for Mistress Rosalind

Calligraphed version courtesy of Mistress Rosalind

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.

Original Translation
Gideon ap Stephen     great of heart Gideon ap Stephen     great in breostsefan
A word-warrior     for the Knowne World Cyneword-ċempa     for þære cuþre worulde
Famed for ferocity     in defense of humble folk Rof for reþnesse     in randġebeorh eadmede-folces
Awesome of hair     a voice ocean-deep Seldlic in feaxe     stefn ġeofon-sidu
In prose and poetry     you have shown your prowess þurh wordcræft ond woþcræft     þin ġewald þu ġeseþe
Our path together     of time and travel Ure gomenwaþu to-gædere     on geongum ond byrum
Late night counsel     creation and craft Nihtlangum leoþurunum     listum ond sceaftum
We, your mentors     you, a man of our houses Wit, þin rædboran,     þu, reord-berend unċer inhireda
Now ends your oath     of fealty to us Nu endaþ þin aþ     to us of heldan
We take back the belt     once gladly bestowed Wit oþfeorraþ þone fetel     fore fuslice ġelacodon
But our heart-bond     can never be broken Ac ure breostsefa-bend     ne abirsteþ næfre

 

Translation Translator’s Notes Regarding Particular Choices
Gideon ap Stephen     great in breostsefan 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
Wit, þin rædboran,     þu, reord-berend uncer inhireda Wit = dual for Mistress Rosalind and Master Dunstan
reord-berend = fig. person/man, lit. voice-bearer/one gifted with speech
in-hired = family, household, house (I liked the triple meaning)
Nu endaþ þin aþ     to us of heldan
Wit oþfeorraþ þone fetel     fore fuslice gelacodon
Ac ure breostsefa-bend     ne abirsteþ næfre Repeating breostsefa from the beginning

 

Mistress Ysabeau’s Laurel Cloak

Photo by Lady Adelaide

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.

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The Spinner of Fate (Clotho)

Photo courtesy of Kaaren Valravn

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.

Everything.

I already had shoes, anyway.

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Poetry Translation for Master Eldred Ælfwald Þegn’s Scroll

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.

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“Millcross” Knotwork Embroidery

The finished embroidery, out of the hoop.

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. While the knotwork has finally been completed, I still have yet to decide what I’m going to sew it on to.

 

Ballpoint pen sketch on linen with first attempt at satin stitch.
Figured out that outlining first helps support satin stitch!
Satin stitch looking much better thanks to outlining.
Millcross base finished; millcross outline and small knotwork in progress.

 

Main embroidery 3/4 complete.
The main embroidery was finished in May!
Almost done with the border!
The final product!