Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I feel like I'm running out of time, with only 6 months to go before the end of the challenge.

I'm a little scrambly about whether and how much I'll actually finish before the deadline, but hopefully it'll all sort itself out.
I would also like to announce that I am now (thank goodness) 80% finished with my goal!
Late last night I finally finished my goldwork project.

It seemed like it took forever, though I think I actually only spent about 24 hours on it, total (over about 2 weeks). I think it's just the fact that the project, as it grew, seemed to take longer and longer.

About 18 months ago, I think, I was admiring the work of a lady of my Kingdom, The Honorable Lady Renata l'Rouge. She had made an amazingly beautiful embroidery of some 14th century people hunting, I believe. It was Or Nue, Shaded Goldwork.
She saw me admiring it, and the next time I saw her, she handed me a book, and two small packets of gold thread (that's just the kind of person she is).
The book was The A to Z of Goldwork, byKathleen Barac.

One packet of thread was faux gold, and the other was real gold. Gold thread, in this case Gold Smooth Purl, is made of a silk core wrapped with extremely thin ribbons of gold.

Faux Gold
The faux gold was probably (I'm not certain) Kreinik Imitation Thread, which is made of synthetic metal wrapped around cotton. 

I decided to use the faux gold first, so as to be able to mess around without being worried about wasting real gold.

Gold Purl
Or Nue is done by couching gold thread down to a surface fabric with colored silk thread. The colored thread forms a tapestry-style image. Originally, the thread was covered completely with silk, but in order to "shade" the color, you could space the silk stitches a little wider apart, allowing the color to fade out a little. In this way, you could get a wide range of colors, and make a very subtle image.

 Modernly, it seems the silk thread is used more sparingly, and the gold allowed to shine through more often.

I chose to do a circular image rather than a rectangular one, which meant starting in the middle of the image and working outwards.

The faux gold was already doubled up, and wrapped around a card. I decided to start at the end and see how much I would need as I went.
I stretched a piece of white handkerchief linen in an embroidery hoop (I have a frame, but this was a small project, and I'm also not very good at securing things to the frame yet).
Next, I drew out the design (a Sycamore Token) on the fabric, and marked out the center.
The center of the doubled thread was the center of my image.
I started with red silk thread (Gutermann, from Joann's, because I had it left over from sewing silk banners). I couched down the center, and then attempted to turn it around to start the spiral. It took some doing, but I managed eventually.
Then I realized that in order to do this properly, I was going to have to thread multiple needles at once.
I threaded one with red, one with gold, and one with white.
As I went around, when the pattern called for a different color, I just tucked the current needle into the fabric (sometimes pinning the extra thread up so that it didn't get stuck), and started in with the next one, much like knitting or weaving in a color pattern. I tried to space the stitches wider on the right half of each leaf.

The first one went quite quickly. I finished about half of it in a few hours the first day, while at an event.
My friend, Baroness Bronwyn, had tried goldwork before as well, and she happened to be hanging out with me at the event, and gave me some great advice. In particular, she emphasized that it was important to try to only use one gold thread for the whole project, because starting and stopping was a pain.

The finished piece is 1.5" in diameter.

The only major problem with the first one was that I accidentally reversed the colors of the badge. On the plus side, I also reversed the number of leaves, so if you ignore the stem, it's actually accurate after all!

 I took a break from the goldwork once the first project was done, because I was preparing classes for Academy.

When I went back to it, I stretched a new piece of linen, and estimated how long the thread would have to be do make a similarly sized piece to the first one.
I decided on 4 1/2 feet.
Unfortunately, while the real gold was all bundled up neatly, it was VERY curly, and difficult to keep neat while trying to measure it out. I ended up untangling and re-spooling it several times before I was done.
I measured out 9 feet, and cut it, and then folded it in half.
This time, I wanted to make a Fleur Badge.
I may have made a mistake in not drawing it out on the fabric this time, but I chose not to.
The Fleur only has 2 colors, red and gold, and I already had those colors threaded up.

It was going pretty well, I had about half an inch diameter done, when I left it unattended for a little while. I'm not sure if it was the cats or the Smallest One, but when I came back, someone had detached the gold thread, and one piece of the detached thread was shorter than the other.
I sighed, trimmed the longer piece down, pulled the ends of the short piece through to the backside, and tacked them down. Then I pulled the two new pieces down to the back side, tacked them down, and kept going.
Medieval Or Nue
Unfortunately, due both to the larger size of the finished piece, and the missing foot of thread, I ended up having to add another few feet of thread on near the end as well.
It's not impossible to add a new piece of gold thread, it's just annoying. The way I was doing it, I stuck the eye-end of a needle up from the back to the front of the fabric, right where the gold thread was, fed one piece through, pulled it down, and then repeated for the other. Then, on the back, continuing in the same direction as the thread had been going on the front, I tacked it down to the other threads, being careful not to go through to the front. When it was suitably tacked down, I nipped off the ends to make it neat.
I did the same thing, backwards, for the new thread, but made sure to add it very close to the old thread, to avoid a double-thickness in the design.

As you work outwards, of course, the diameter gets larger, and the amount of sewing involved in each round is greater. Thus, it seems like it takes longer and longer (and it does), so I was very grateful to finally get to the end of it last night. I even stayed up an extra half hour to finish the darn thing because I was only half a round from done.

Because I didn't draw it out first, I started the fleurs a little too far from the center, and ended up with a larger piece than I had anticipated. No big deal, except that it used more thread. As in the Sycamore, I tried to leave more space between stitches on the left side of each fleur. I think it was more noticeable this time.

The Fleur is 2" in diameter.

The main difference in working with the faux gold and the real gold is in the drape (which seems silly to say in light of these not being fabrics, but it is true). The faux gold was really quite stiff, and tended to stick out rather than lie neatly. The real gold was much nicer to work with, and I enjoyed the deeper quality of color, as well.

Now that both are done, I will frame them, and hopefully give them to a worthy gentle at some point (or to Their Majesties, to give to a worthy gentle).
I hope whoever receives them will enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Glass Butter Demo Day

That's right, I've learned how to make butter from glass.

No, not really.

Last weekend was our kingdom's Fall Academy event.

I had it marked down for crossing off a few different goals, and for once, I was totally successful!

It was a beautiful fall day in one of the most mountainous regions of my state, which meant that we had to drive up an extremely steep angle in order to get to the site, and then there was almost no parking left by the time we got there. However, we found somewhere to be, and unloaded all the ridiculous amounts of things I needed for my two classes.
I made it to the room just in time.

My first class was on the ADEPT Demo, which is a wonderful program for putting on historical demonstrations for schools.
The SCA is not (as I may have mentioned before) a straight reenactment group. However, we do study history, and we do specialize in the Medieval Period, so it makes some sense that we are sometimes called upon to present the Medieval Period to schools.
We are also a group of (mostly) amateurs, so it is helpful in the extreme to have an outline, some ideas, and a general plan for how to create an engaging, helpful, and accurate presentation for students.

(disclaimer: this is not from an ADEPT demo. It is from a demo, though)
Some years ago, a few ladies from my local area, one of whom is an Adult ESL teacher, put together such a plan, and when I became a Chatelaine (the local outreach officer), I found it all on a handy-dandy floppy disc. I fell madly in love with it, because I am a huge sucker for living history, and this draws a lot on the living history experience.

There are a lot of components, in a mix-and-match sort of way, but my favorite, and the largest component, is the In Persona Q&A Session.
You sit yourselves down in front of the kids, in order of persona time-period, and then stay in persona the whole time, while they ask whatever they want to ask. Teachers are strongly discouraged from "helping", so that the control is in the hands of the students. It's a lot of fun, and I think it really helps the students get an idea that these were real people, not just facts on a page.

You can find all the materials here.

Les Tres Riches Heures
I will stress that it is important to put together a group of people with different enough personas to be interesting (or they can create an alternate persona, if there are too many 14th Century French Noblewomen, for instance), and practice ahead of time. Be familiar with your persona. Be confident that you can answer all the questions with as much accuracy as possible. Be sure that your persona is pretty likely to have existed, which is to say, not a Welshwoman married to a Mongol, or a Norse Japanese man. If it isn't, again, create an alternate one just for this demo.

In our state, Medieval History is often taught in 6th grade, and then again in 9th or 10th grade depending on the school. Get to know your state curriculum, and send letters to the schools in your area, announcing your availability. Know your team's availability, and work within it.
My class went very well, and we filled up the second half-hour with questions, and chatting about options and techniques.

Next, I ran out to the car to get all my dairy equipment, but the class ahead of mine in the room had run into a snag, and ran a few minutes late.

Once we got into the room (the beautifully decorated Art Room, covered in murals, much like the rest of the school), I set up, and discovered that I had brought just enough supplies for everyone, which was great. I hadn't anticipated the popularity, since typically my turn out at Academy has been under 5. I brought a dozen kits, and all but one was used. The last one was used to store extra buttermilk.

This was a different class than usual, because I decided to combine it with a Cheesemaking class.
I have yet to accomplish my hard-cheese goal, but I make a mean Roman Soft Cheese, so that's what I went with.
Thus far, I had only made the Roman Soft Cheese (from Bassus' Melca, redaction from Katja Orlova) found in the Coronation Feast of Robin and Isabeau. This time, I looked again at the actual reference, and discovered that Bassus actually says to warm up the vinegar, and add the cream to that. I decided to try it that way.
I warmed up about a half cup of apple cider vinegar in a crock pot, and when it was hot, added my usual half pint cream and half pint milk. It didn't curdle as visibly right away as it usually does the other way around, but I left it overnight, and it was quite nice by the morning.
I let it drain all day, and then spiced it up with salt and Penzey's Northwood Spice (a brief unsolicited plug: I love this stuff!).
Having proven that it was possible in a crock pot with a reversed method, I decided to do it this way at class.
The only major snag, besides it being my first time combining the two, and therefore I forgot to mention a few things, was that my butter churn leaked like a sieve. Luckily, we had abundant paper towels, so we stanched the flow until I was able to make butter with it.
cheese we made in class, drained.
The cheese part went very nicely. By the end of class I was able to show the students the curdled milk quite clearly.
Of course, the butter took about an hour and a half in the churn, but the gallant class-coordinator, Muirenn, was kind enough to spend the lunch hour trading churning-places with me until we finally got it done.
Then she helped me clean up the mess. She was awesome, and I sent her home with 1/3 of the butter (because that's what fit in her container).

Finally, it turned out that the next class in the room was that of my friend Artemius, and was a class I'd been hoping to get to for ages: Beginner Glass Beadmaking.
Muirenn and I both took the class, along with a newcomer to the area, and a few others wandered in and out throughout the three hours. It was just the three of us actually making beads, though.
Artemius is a great teacher--very patient, very knowledgeable, and he does beautiful work.
He had a torch, and a wide variety of glass rods, and we were able to make three different styles of bead. He interspersed the hands-on work with some demonstrations of the more complicated methods, such as attaching two smaller glass rods together to make one which is easier to work with, and adding an air-bubble to a bead (which was amazing).
the beads I made
 All in all, it was a great day. The only downside for me was that, being in glass for six hours straight, I didn't drink...anything. I ended up with a raging headache. Still, it was a lot of fun.
The boy entertained himself with the regional fight practice held in the gym, and the older kid took care of the younger one all day, which was very kind.

Next up: more fiber arts. Hopefully another update will follow shortly.
I am also only two classes (and one schola) away from finishing my class quota. Yay!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Singing in Public

I love to sing, but I'm terrified of being judged. This means I frequently sing along to music when I'm cooking or driving alone, because no one's really listening. I sing folk songs to myself while gardening or shoveling snow. I sing a little with and for my young person.
I have sung in public off and on all my life, but it's very difficult for me. I perform better as part of a group, because I have to commit to it, and I'm not alone up there, either.
While I have led songs at folk festival sings, and some Sacred Harp conventions (rarely, but I try to do this a couple of times a year at minimum), I have never ever sung in public in the SCA. Until this past Saturday.

Why is it easier for me to sing in public at folk-music events than in the SCA? My level of comfort is pretty similar in both communities, so that's not it. I think it has to do with rules.

With Sacred Harp, if it's in the book, you can sing it. With a folk-music sing, it's a little more amorphous: if it has a chorus, it's probably safe enough. No one cares how old or traditional it is most of the time.

In the SCA, it's harder to tell what people are looking for or what they will accept. Because of the historical basis of the society, the ideal is to sing what your persona would have sung. Thus, in my case, a song from 12th century England, Wales, or Mongolia.

Because it's the Society for Creative Anachronism, though, there's some fudge-factor in the dates--really anything pre-1600 will do, though that cuts out the majority of what we consider folk songs (written primarily in the 18th century or later).  It cuts out at least 90% of the over 200 songs I know. There's also filking, but that's a very divisive issue (I like it, but I don't compose).

So, some people will look down their noses at you if your music isn't appropriate to your persona. Others only if it's not medieval. Still others don't care what you sing, as long as it doesn't reference modern things too much. You never know how your audience will react.
Being someone who is terrified of judgment, I have avoided the issue by just not singing at all.

However, this project is meant to be a challenge.

My choice for a venue was an event held in my barony, called "Sergeants, Yeomen, and Gallants".
Many years ago in my barony, this event began as a concept stolen from An Tir, where it is a much bigger deal. It ran for some years, and then it fell by the wayside. Master Fridrikr picked it back up last year.
The event is a competition in which, to earn a belt, you must participate in a set of activities representing all the Society has to offer, and the gentle with the highest score wins.

Our competition required one to participate in the following:
A Martial Activity (fighting: sergeant, fencing: gallant, archery and/or thrown weapons: yeoman)
Gaming (including checkers, fox and geese, and nine men's morris)
Heraldry (a test)
Tactics (a test)
Arts and Sciences (if you entered an item in the display, you got extra credit)
I chose fencing, and to sing a song.

The fencing tournament was lovely, and I lost all of my rounds.
The gaming was fun, and dancing was great. Heraldry was relatively easy for me. Tactics, well, I know I'm no tactician: I didn't fail, but I didn't do well.

So then came the performance.
I had hemmed and hawed over this for months, because at one point I had tried to learn some 14th century French songs for the reenactment group (though I'd never gotten to the point of memorizing them). I thought about doing one of the songs by Guillaume de Machaut, Moult Sui De Bonne Heure Nee, which I like because, unlike most of his songs, it's from the point of view of a woman. It's also not one of his long and involved songs, but one with some repetition, making it a little easier to learn. I learned it off of "Ay Mi! Lais et Virelais" by Emmanuel Bonnardot.
The other option was Jean de Nivelle, a 16th century song that I really enjoyed, because it seemed like the sort of song that could have a ton of verses.
I learned it off of "La Rocque 'N' Roll: Popular Music of Renaissance France" by the Baltimore Consort.
I went with the latter because I had enough familiarity with it that I thought I could pull it off.

Jean de Nivelle was the son of Jean II de Montmorency-Nevele, a 15th century French nobleman. When his father supported King Louis XI in his war against the Duke of Burgundy, Jean refused to join him. He was disinherited. From this incident, the expression "comme le chien de Jean de Nivelle" became known, meaning: someone who doesn't do as asked/a dog who doesn't come when called. 
This song illustrates that point (and is also insulting to Jean de Nivelle in a "yo mama" kind of way).

Jean de Nivelle a trois enfants
Jean de Nivelle a trois enfants
Dont il y en a deux marchands
Dont il y en a deux marchands
because I love hurdy-gurdy
L'autre escure la vaisselle
Hay avant, Jean de Nivelle
Hay, hay, hay, avant
Jean de Nivelle est un galant!

Jean de Nivelle a trois chevaux
Deux sont par mouts et part vaux
 Et l'autre n'a point de selle

Jean de Nivelle a trois beaux chiens
Dont il y en a deux vauriens
L'autre fuit quand on l'appelle

Jean de Nivelle a trois gros chats
L'un prend souris, et l'autre rats
L'autre mange la chandelle

Jean de Nivelle a deux housseaux
Le roi n'en a pas de si beaux
Mais il n'y a pas de semelle

Jean de Nivelle a un valet
si il n'y pas beaux, il n'y pas laid
Il accoste une pucelle
Hay avant, Jean de Nivelle
Hay, hay, hay avant, Jean de Nivelle est triomphant!

(en Anglais, translation helped along by a few different versions)

Jean de Nivelle has three children
Two of them are merchants
The third cleans the dishes.
Jean de Nivelle is a fancy-man

Jean de Nivelle has three horses,
Two for the hills and dales
The other is missing a saddle.

Jean de Nivelle has three beautiful dogs,
Two are good-for-nothing
The other doesn't come when you call

Jean de Nivelle has three large cats,
One eats mice, the other rats,
The other eats the candles.

Jean de Nivelle has a pair of tall boots
Even the king hasn't got as lovely a pair
But they have no soles.

Jean de Nivelle has a valet,
If he is not handsome, he isn't ugly
He propositions girls.
Jean de Nivelle is triumphant!

I only sang the first four verses, and I screwed up a little on the pronunciation (because Medieval French is funny, and I'm a little unsure of myself with it), but I got through it, and no one seemed to mind.
According to a book I read a long time ago, and my friend Katrusha, who studied IPA in medieval language, Medieval French is way more in the front of your mouth (no swallowed 'r's) than Modern French, but it's hard to make yourself do that when you're used to Modern French and also nervous.
I did earn the Gallant's Belt.

Will I do it again? I doubt it, though perhaps in a bardic circle instead of in front of a roomful of people and the Baronage. Still, I did it once, and that's worth something, right?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fiber Arts Extravaganza

Okay, maybe extravaganza is a bit much. However, there are some things on my list that are done, but I haven't said anything about, and several of them are fiber-arts related (because I'm a card-carrying fiber-geek).

Inkle Looms and Their Results

I started weaving when I was a fairly young kid, first with potholder-looms and knitting mushrooms (yes, knitting counts, dammit), then with a rigid heddle loom made of popsicle sticks at camp (and gods-eyes...remember those? Weaving!).
My mother had a thing for changing up summer camps every week or so, and one of the many I attended was Helderberg Workshop. Every summer I took one class there: one year it was doll making, one year archery, but several years in a row I took weaving, because I loved it the minute I tried it. The instructor, Karin Demis, is an excellent weaver, and also spins and dyes, and used to raise her own Angora rabbits. She taught us about mohair and wool, took us out gathering goldenrod and sumac for dyeing, and every year I came back, she suggested a new and more difficult weaving project. One year I did a wagon-wheel pattern with stripes of different colors, and my final year there she had me weave lace with lovely, soft, shiny, cream-colored cotton thread.
the tinkle loom:
strings in the middle are heddles
Of course, a four-harness table loom is pretty expensive, and a floor loom more-so, and neither one is particularly portable (some four-harness looms fold up, but it's a little terrifying watching the warp get all tangly-looking, and you never know what might happen).
After my introduction to the SCA, I discovered inkle looms, and that was very exciting to me.
There's a limit to how wide your fabric can be, but you can get pretty interesting without cards, and if you add cards, you can get downright complicated with your patterning.
I think of them as warping boards you can weave on (except there's some tensioning with a regular inkle loom that isn't possible on a warping board).
My first inkle loom was actually a "tinkle" loom (tiny-inkle...yeah...). It's capable of a similar width to a medium inkle loom, and much more portable, and you can move around the pegs to determine your width and increase your tension. The maximum length is about 2 feet, which is enough for a basic piece of trim, two garters for me, or one for a larger human.
I made lots of small trim and garters on that, and played with some silk thread to make ribbons.
linen striped trim
silk ribbon
linen garter

 Finally, a few years ago, I got a real inkle loom, and began working with wider trim and fabric belts.
Being me, I jumped right into the deep end of inkle loom weaving, because why not? I bought a set of cards made of wood veneer from Spanish Peacock, and warped up a really complicated red and black pattern in linen thread, which ended up interesting, and not completely obvious as a screw up, but it wasn't quite right, either.
Also, it turns out, linen thread gums up the works really quickly. As you work with it, it frays a little, and the more it frays, and the more you turn the cards, the more gummy it gets behind the cards, until it's nearly impossible to work with. I lost a few threads and had to tie them back in, and I snapped a few cards, and it was very frustrating.
I have worked with cards since, but I spent quite a while working with card-free stripes before I started anything more complicated again. It's possible to do some pretty nice things with horizontal and vertical stripes, though.
I found that with my inkle loom, I can get just enough warp to go around me twice, but not enough to keep going (so I can make a Norman-style fabric belt, but the dangly-bit has to be plain strings, or a simple braid). The only problem with this is that you have to plan it out way ahead of time, because if you do what most people do, and wind the thread for the same color around and around instead of tying it off every time you finish a revolution, you'll end up with ends that are only barely longer than the piece, and no strings to braid.
No problem if you're making trim, but a problem if you want a long piece at the end.
So far I have worked in linen, pearl cotton (for demos), wool, and silk. They all have their own issues, but they are all fun in their own ways.
wool, card woven, reversed

pearl cotton, from a demo
this is not edge-weaving
it is trim on a Viking apron

 Weaving on the Edge

One interesting thing about card-weaving, independent of inkle looms, is that in the 14th century, people used it to reinforce the button-hole edge of their cotehardies. I decided to try this a few years ago, when I was first starting in the 1391 group, and trying to hand-sew everything. I did a quick, two-card pattern on the edge of my husbands cotehardie, using my big toe as a tensioner (it worked okay. Moving from one room to the next in the middle of the project was a real pain, though). It went beautifully. Sadly, a few years ago his cote got caught in the washing machine, and giant holes were ripped in it, so I no longer have it for pictures.
This is where I got my information.

Drop Spinning

Over the years I've tried drop-spinning a few times, learning it for a few days, then forgetting how to do it, then re-learning, etc. This is actually my pattern of learning for a few different things, including knitting.
A few years ago, a lady in my Barony was running a drop-spinning class, and she gave away the spindles at the end. They were cheap, just a thin wooden weight on a skinny dowel with a paperclip hook on the end, but the nice thing was that, with the ability to take it home, I was able to keep practicing. Then I bought my beautiful drop-spindle, again from Spanish Peacock, and got way more into it.
I'm most comfortable with the top-hook method, which results in very thin thread, and is somehow less likely to fall on the floor (at least for me).
I don't do it a lot, but it's a great thing to do for demos, because you can do it while talking, and it gives people something to ask you about. Also, it's pretty much period for any time in the Medieval Era, and before, and after.
I have spun on a spinning wheel (also at Helderberg Workshop), and I have an inherited flax wheel at home, but it has a tension issue that hasn't been addressed yet, and it squeaks like crazy. Someday I will fix it, or just save up for a modern one, and begin spinning more regularly.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Basic 14th Century Clothing

I've been taking a break while focusing on the farm and my business, since it's been summer, and things have been growing like crazy. On the plus side, my garden was the most productive it's ever been in 8 years. On the minus side, I haven't posted much of anything in months.

So I'll be catching up this week. I haven't accomplished much of anything, sadly, but I will start by catching up on those things that I have accomplished that haven't been posted.

First up, my class on Basic 14th Century Clothing.
Disclaimer: this is a class I created because I belonged to a 14th century Living History group for several years, and I had the examples and knew how to make them. I didn't do this research, I merely looked it up, compiled it, and presented it. If you're looking for new info on the 14th century, this isn't the place. What is useful (I hope) is the pattern drafting in the second half.

Basic 14th century clothing

During the course of the 14th century in Western Europe, fashion became much more complicated than it had been in the previous centuries. Clothing became more form-fitting, headwear became much fancier, and shoes became pointy and long-toed.
The introduction of buttons (from Germany in the late 13th century) made it possible to fit clothing very closely to one’s body without having to sew oneself into it all the time.

Always wash your cloth and iron it before cutting anything. Some people prefer to draw on the cloth with lighter or darker pencil or chalk. I do this only for chausses and quilting. I usually mark out the measurements with pins, and take them out again once it’s cut.
Always add seam allowance. Double it if you’re French-seaming.

Linen frays like crazy, so I usually French-seam it. Serging works just as well, but isn’t period (and requires a serger). If you don’t know how to make French seams, here’s how:
1)    The “Right” way: sew your seams from the right side of the fabric. Turn and press the garment. Now sew the seams again from the wrong side, making sure to keep the raw edge of your fabric in between the original seam and the new seam (so it’s hidden when you turn it right way out). This protects the raw edge, giving your garment a longer life.
2)    The easier way: sew your seam from the wrong side of the fabric, leaving twice as much seam allowance as you would if you were serging it instead. Fold and sandwich the raw edges together, press, and zipper stitch or if hand-sewing, use tiny stitches along the top edge of the new seam.

I use 3.5oz linen for undergarments, and usually 5-6oz linen for outer layers. I find it washes up fairly soft and is sturdy enough to wear for a long time.

I have been using wool flannel for my woolen garments. It is very heavy, and fairly expensive. It's quite hard (at least for me) to find lighter weight wool that is still medieval-style, but wool gabardine works quite well. After washing, the wool will shrink a fair amount. Keep this in mind when buying yardage. I have found so far that because of the fulling involved in washing the wool, the flannel hardly frays at all. Therefore I usually use a backstitch for security (the wool is thick enough that a running stitch would gap a lot), and don’t bother with French seams. 

Under garments

White or unbleached lightweight linen (3.5 oz or thereabouts). Probably not silk, almost certainly not cotton, possibly lightweight wool if you’re into discomfort. I find soft wool to be comfortable enough for a time, but eventually it gets itchy.

Chemise (Women):

Calf-length. Sleeveless or long sleeved, could have straps of a different material, straps can be as thin as ½”.

Shert (Men):

Usually just above knee-length and long sleeved. Might have a collar, if your outer garment has a collar. I’m not adding one, because it’s not common.

Braies (Men):

Early in the century they are baggy and the legs can tie up to the waistband to get them out of the way. Later in the century they shrink along with hemlines, and become more fitted.

Chausses (both):

Wool, cut on the bias, sometimes lined with linen. Sometimes only the top half was lined, which is much easier than lining the whole thing.
Master Broom suggests covering the model’s leg with cloth, duct tape it all over, cut down the back seam, over the heel to the big toe, and use this as a pattern.
I just measure everything, create a center line on the bias and lay out the measurements on the center line. Then I cut it larger, baste it together, try it on, and make adjustments before stitching it.

Stitching (used only for chausses):








Outer Garments

Jupon (Men, late century):

This was originally a version of a gambeson—a padded cote worn under your armor for padding. Later on, as armor became more complicated and needed a foundation layer to hold it together, the jupon was used to tie things to. As cotehardies for men got shorter and shorter, the hose needed something to be tied onto as well, and the jupon became an everyday garment. I’m not including a pattern for this because it’s much more complicated in construction, and very late in the century outside of martial use.

Cotehardie (both):

Gestonas and Cassiel the Baudrain playing chess, 1345

Buttons up the front, and on the sleeves.
Men’s cotehardies are knee length or shorter (depending on the decade, shorter=later). The shortest they go is butt-length, and you’ll need joined hosen and a jupon for that.
Women’s are floor length or longer (depending on your station, longer=wealthier).
If you wear a full surcote, your cotehardie ought to be of very pretty fabric. Note the “pockets” on the woman in blue –those are for reaching her purse underneath.

Surcote (both):

Loose and Sleeveless (Men and Pregnant Women): Women might lace up the sides.

Full Surcote (Women): 

same as the cotehardie, only less spiffy fabric. Fold it up when sitting or walking to show the spiffy cote underneath. (no pattern, same as cotehardie).

Short Sleeved Surcote (Women): 

cotehardie with short sleeves. Use cotehardie pattern, adding to the shoulder area the length of your desired sleeves (usually no more than half the length of your upper arm).

Sideless Surcote (Upper Class Women):
The Marriage of Maria of Brabant
to Philip III of France:
she is wearing the gates of hell,
he's wearing a houppelande

Early period was about mid-breast width, later period got skinnier in the middle, and far more embellished (priests called it "the gates of hell").

Houppelande: (both)

A show-off garment, usually made of very pretty fabric, velvet or silk or brocade, as much as you can afford. Women’s houppelandes belted just under the breasts. Men’s started floor length, then slowly worked their way upward to about mid-thigh. As they got shorter, they were belted, usually around the hips.

Accessories and Outer Gear

Edward the Black Prince
effigy 1380


Either relatively thin and leather with pewter or brass embellishments, buckled around the waist, or a plaque belt of metal links, worn around the hips.

Hats and Hair

Men most often cut their hair in a bowl cut and were clean shaven. Hair served as extra padding in the helmet, but it wasn’t long enough to get in one’s face during battle.

The arming cap was very popular prior to the 14th century, but during the 14th century, was mostly worn only under the helmet. It may have been worn under hats to protect them from sweat, or in bed to keep the warmth in. It was made solely of white linen, and was sometimes padded.

Men’s Hats:


Jan van Eyck,
Giovanni Arnolfini
Developed from the hood.

Arming Cap

 Made of white linen, strapped under the chin and was often padded for use under a helmet.
the arming cap is visible
under the helmet



Women's Hats:

veils as turbans,
veils with wimples
stiffened fillet over braids
goffered veil
jeweled fillet over caul

Women’s hair 

was uncut and usually braided. Unmarried women could get away with loose hair, but a woman’s hair was thought of as sexy, so to wear it loose after marriage was considered loose behavior. Even showing it a little through a sheer veil or a metal crespinette or hair net was a bit risqué (and therefore fashionable).
The modest married woman wore a wimple and a veil of linen or silk. A linen veil might be goffered, or woven with pleating on the selvedge, or plain edged, or beaded or embroidered on the edge. 
The only women who cut their hair were nuns, the sick (the weight of hair was considered detrimental to the health when very ill), and women in deep mourning.



Clarice de Gascogne, 1468
were the most common footwear. They could be ankle length, calf-length, knee-length or thigh-length. Most of them were slightly pointed at the toe, but how pointed depended on how fashionable you were. Usually they didn’t extend (even on the most fashionable person) to more than a few inches. The myth of tying your toes to your knees is almost certainly just that. Turnshoes sometimes had extra soles on the outside.





were worn outdoors over turnshoes if they only had one sole.
When making pattens for yourself, make sure the seam for the ball of your foot goes perpendicular to the grain, otherwise they will probably split the first time you wear them.




Cloaks were usually made of fulled wool, and circular with a smaller circle for the neck. They did not have attached hoods, and usually did not have attached fasteners, but were closed with a pin (allowing for the amount of closure to change with the wearer or the weather).


were separate, and overlapped the neck of the cloak to allow the rain to slide off the outside rather that creep in your collar. They were always wool, usually lined with linen or silk, and either buttoned or toggled or fastened with a cloak pin. The depth allows one to keep the rain off, or to fold it back and show the lining in nice weather.
Royal MS 20 1335





 Early Braies

Sew together 2” below top for a few inches, then from the center bottom up to 2” below the top again. This allows a nice gap for accessibility, as well as a gap at the top for the drawstring to show so that you can tie things to it (points, and the pointy back of the leg when it’s hot)

Late Braies

Measurement A is ¼ the waist width, measurement B is the length of the leg, and measurement C is the rise. The gusset should be about 4” square for children, 5” square for medium sized men, and 6” square for large men. Like the early braies, allow enough room at the top for turning it over to make a tube for the drawstring. This pattern doesn’t allow for gaps to tie things to, so you could either cut and hem some, or not, and tie your chausses to something else (or pin them or what have you).



Lay this out at a 45degree angle on the fabric. Cut it a little larger than you think you will need for seam allowance, baste it together, and then try it on. Have someone other than the intended recipient do the re-basting, and take it off. It might want to be tried on one more time before final sewing. If you just pin the changes, you may not be taking into account the need to have room to remove and re-insert the leg in the future. You can’t be re-sewing it every time you want to wear it.

The alternative is to create a pattern with cloth and duct tape.


female version

male version

The female version is floor length or longer. The gores start around the point of the hips, as do the buttons (going up, the gores are going down). Gores are set in point upwards, and there are eight of them.
The male version is much simpler. Length can be anywhere from just below the hips to knee length.

Setting a sleeve

The gusset in the sleeve is measured as follows:
A is the length from the start of the shoulder (in back) to the end of the bicep (approximately).
B is the difference between the width of the arm at the elbow and the width of the arm at the armscye (around the shoulder).
The sleeve, as above, is a rectangle the width of the arm at the bent elbow. The difference in width at the shoulder is covered by the gusset, and the difference in width at the wrist is taken in by buttons that reach from wrist to near the elbow.


For men, this would be shorter, and probably would have no gores. It was used by men as a covering for armor, often heraldic, as well as an everyday garment.

Women frequently used it as a pregnancy garment, because it is quite roomy. You can also lace it up the sides and leave them sewn only in the skirt, which allows it to be worn loose during pregnancy and tight during the rest of your life.

Sideless Surcote

The early sideless surcote was wider and less embellished. The  shoulder-shoulder width is covering modern bra straps. It can be fur lined for warmth, and it ought to reach the floor.


The later sideless surcote, nicknamed “the gates of hell” by priests railing
against the loose ways of fashion, was much skinnier in the middle, and the center piece was frequently stiffened and jeweled. It was almost always a different color in the skirt than the rest of the garment. Alternately, the belt-like portion and the top piece can be merged to form one piece (erase the scallop shape at the bottom of the Y). The layout will be a bit different in that case. I included two Y shaped pieces on the doubled cloth for stiffening.


This is the rotated point quarter circle version of the pattern (my favorite, although there are plenty of other versions out there), courtesy of Mistress Cynthia du Pre Argent. You can either sew the back together up to the shoulders, or you can leave it gaped like it is in the front, and add a triangular gusset to make up the difference. There is lots of evidence for the triangular piece in the back, especially for men’s houppelandes.
The woman’s houppelande would have a belt, probably of contrasting cloth, under the breasts. I close mine with a hook and eye arrangement.

Sleeve and collar options are below


The gore in the hood goes point first (the illustration doesn’t clearly show that, I’m afraid), and the liripipe can be as long or as short as you desire. Longer indicates foppiness, of course…


I am indebted to the following gentles,whose knowledge is the basis for this class:
Julia Hamilton and Krista Crosby, who taught me the basics of 14th century clothing, and whose information formed the basis for my own garb.

Master Broom (SCA name), whose wonderful class and website on medieval undergarments was extremely helpful in filling the many gaps in my knowledge:

I. Mark Carlson, whose website on the history of shoes and shoemaking is fascinating, even though I prefer to buy my shoes rather than make them:

Mistress Corisander Seathewaite, whose information on kirtles was very helpful, and whose website was also helpful when I learned about houppelandes (sadly the site is apparently no longer around--a lot of people used it in their documentation, so I hope at some point it finds a new home online).

Rosalie Gilbert, a 14th and 15th century reenactor with a marvelous site on the clothing and lifestyles of the periods in question:

Mistress Cynthia du Pre Argent, who not only taught me (through the internet) the best (in my opinion) version of the houppelande pattern, but also about hair and headdresses and many other interesting garb-related things:

And no, I haven’t cracked a book for this class, but all of the above gentles have lots of books listed in their reference sections, and sadly, the only one I have immediate access to as of this writing is The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, by Sarah Thursfeld, which, while very helpful in some ways, is highly suspect in others.

Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince, by Stella Mary Newton, is a wonderful resource.

Places where I get my fabric: the best source I’ve found thus far for linen. Cheaper than the rest, really good deals, lots of colors and weights, and usually pretty soft once washed. an 18th century sutler, but a fantastic source for relatively cheap period-esque wool. If you happen to do 18th c as well, they’ve got patterns, too. specializes in reenactment fiber-arts supplies. Excellent source for linen, wool, and silk thread, and silk ribbon.