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The Problem with Awards…

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In the SCA, the Crown acknowledges and rewards prowess, chivalry/courtesy, and service by bestowing awards upon members of their populace, ranging from non-armigerous (that is, they do not promote your rank) to Patents of Arms, the highest level of ranked awards. These awards are fun to receive and fun to witness and they denote recognition for hard work and achievement, not just from the Crown, but from our friends. For the most part, awards are merit-based. In Calontir, all awards of the Grant of Arms level (GoA) and above are vetted through polling orders. (Also, Award of Arms-level Martial awards in Calontir, sic anything with the word Fyrd in it, are vetted through polling orders.) The bar gets raised every so often, but, usually, one can have a pretty clear idea where they stand in their skill. 

Awards are a good thing, they were intended as a good things when they were contrived, and they are given out with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, however, the down side to awards being given is that there are others who do not receive them, at least not then. It’s a logical progression of events and is unavoidable. What is also unfortunate is that we often come up with rather haphazard reasons as to why some receive awards and some do not, which can lead to frustration and hurt feelings.

The obvious and most justifiable reason given for not receiving an award is, “You’re not there yet.” Most of the time when a person is told this, it’s true. However, “you’re not there yet,” is also a highly subjective statement and can sometimes be quite frustrating. I have a friend who was told that he just needed to go to more events and then he would get knighted. During the year leading up to that advice, he had been to every event, so one can imagine how fruitless and dismissive the advice was for him. 

In a perfect world, there would be a checklist of “landmarks” to achieve, and one could blithely mark them off as they progress and exchange their assignment sheets for the appropriate award. However, there are a couple of problems with that notion. Firstly, because everyone is on their own path, it is impossible to truly and accurately assess their work based on a checklist. For example, my music is utterly incomparable to my friend’s and vice versa; likewise, my strengths as a seamstress are completely different from those of another. Secondly, our society’s noble founders were hippies and, like most hippies, they fostered the mentality that one should work without expecting an award and then be blissfully surprised when one happened to be bestowed upon you. Naturally, the “checklist” notion runs at odds with this premise. 

Now, I’m a Christian, and while neither group would care to admit it, some key ideals in my faith run congruent with hippie attitudes. (I’m also pretty crunchy: essential oils instead of cleaning chemicals, etc.) One thing Jesus said often was not to seek earthly rewards and He was pretty blunt about it. That said, He also didn’t turn around and create a social ranking based on awards and accolades. (That’s something humans turned around and did after He went returned to heaven.) However, on that vein, there’s a lot to be said about letting awards be an afterthought. 

I say “afterthought” because I, personally, take the line, “You shouldn’t care about awards,” with a mine of salt, mostly because it’s often repeated by someone as they polish their coronet.

I’m a type-A personality: I love achieving my goals and there’s nothing wrong with that, but, in the SCA, it’s something you have to be careful about or you will make yourself miserable. In academia, one might set a goal of achieving a GPA of above 3.5, study, do their homework, do extra credit, perform well in tests, and, as long as your professor isn’t one of those types, (you know, the one who is impossible to please or marks down your paper simply because they disagree with you), you’ll likely achieve your goal, barring learning deficiencies. As noted earlier, it is impossible for the SCA to function within those parameters because they are completely different models. 

As far as the Arts and Sciences go, we are all amateurs when all is said and done. Moreover, the Middle Ages is vast in areas of study: it’s difficult to have a set standard as we do in academia because, at the end of the day, we’re comparing apples to oranges. Finally, there is no oversight in the SCA like there is in a classroom. There’s no professor to grade you, only your peers. (No, not the Peers-Peers, per say, I mean the people around you, which of course, does include Peers-Peers.) This all makes for a vastly different system than those we’re accustomed to in academia or even professionally, which requires a mental adjustment for those of us who are goal-driven.

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Let me be perfectly clear: I am absolutely not suggesting that you should stop caring about achieving goals. Many peers in my kingdom are successful in their professional fields in real life because the same drive that propels them in their careers propels them in the SCA. Goals are healthy as long as you control them, not the other way around. In the SCA, however, you’re going to need to set your goals a little differently. 

Do Not Set Awards as Benchmarks. 

For all the reasons previously listed, setting the achievement of an award as a goal, as you would strive for a promotion at work, can lead to disappointment. The standards for awards are not concrete and the receipt of awards is somewhat arbitrary. (More on that later.) Instead of focusing on achieving a certain award in a certain time frame, set goals according to your skill, etc. For instance, a clothier might set a goal to have a completely hand sewn ensemble by Christmas, a potter might set a goal to have a complete set of feast gear for their family by Pennsic, or a fighter might set a goal to have authorized in every weapons system by Battlemoor. These goals are not dependent on someone else noticing you and they’re goals that will lead to personal gratification and fulfillment. You need to focus on your SCA goals as something to improve your skill or increase your knowledge for your own satisfaction, not to rise up the totem pole. If getting the new medallion is your goal, the chances are high you’re going to find yourself frustrated. Achieving an award is dependent on a set of factors that are not very predictable and are out of your control and you should never stake your fulfillment or enjoyment on something that can only be granted by a third party. 

Awards are Arbitrary.

I recognize that saying that will likely ruffle some feathers, but bear with me: I’m not saying awards have no merit or that they’re given out willy-nilly. Awards are certainly not worthless, but there is a level at which they are inherently arbitrary. This isn’t due to a lack of consideration but rather due to the fact that, barring all other obstacles to achieving an award and assuming that every person in the Kingdom is at the same level in all fields, it is still physically impossible for the Crown to recognize every worthy gentle during a single reign.

For GoAs, the Orders have to be consulted and the recommendations the Crown receives from the populace must be weighed against their personal list and then against the people who are brought up in meetings. Finally special scrolls have to be made, not to mention the loot and ceremonies that have to be pulled together for a peerage. In some instances, a Crown may decline to give someone an award because they don’t want to appear to be favoring their friends or because an Order is more keen on this person than the other candidate, then the next Crown comes along and has their own list of nominees to weigh against the recommendations of their populace and Orders. Sometimes, without any intention or malice, people simply fall through the cracks or get left on the shelf, as it were.

The key is not to take it personally. For every person who gets an award, there are probably five more people in that same court who are equally deserving. The desert of the five people who are not being awarded does not cancel out the worthiness of the person being awarded or vice versa. We all get there, eventually. 

Awards are Candy.

Yes, getting an award is awesome! I wore my Swan medallion for days after I received it and I wasn’t at War. Awards denote accomplishment and you should be proud of them and happy for the people who receive them, but the ranking in the SCA is done in an attempt to emulate a medieval social structure,  not as a method of creating actual social strata. They are meant entirely as boon to those who receive them, not a denigration to those who do not. View the bestowment of an award as a commendation, but do not view the lack of one as a criticism. 

How to Handle Feeling Overlooked:

One of the difficult things about going five-thirty years without being called into court for an award (yes, I wrote thirty), is that it can lead to a feeling of not being valued by the Kingdom or your friends. Simply put, it does hurt one’s feelings. When one feels that they’ve progressed in their field, the lack of award can erode confidence or make them wonder if what they’re doing or how they’re fighting is just awful and no one will tell them that. 

On a social level, an extended dry spell can make one wonder if they’re actually liked or if perhaps they’ve committed a social sin of which they are unaware. Because awards are based mostly upon the recommendation of one’s friends (the Crown can’t be every where at once), the same awards that denote acceptance can  unintentionally denote rejection when they’re withheld in the mind of the person waiting for one. 

Yes, social politics can play a role in the receipt of awards, but it is futile to assume that social politics is the default reason for awards or lack thereof. One of my friends went decades at the AoA level and then another five and a half years before a peerage. She sometimes feared that perhaps she had caused some great offense unwittingly, but the reality was that she was greatly appreciated and well-liked. 

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Unfortunately, many people get trapped in the mentality that awards flow from the Crown and, therefore, magically enter the Crown’s mind. I had a conversation with a friend about someone deserving an AoA-level award and he said, “If I ever win Crown, I’ll do something about that,” and I replied, “Or you could just fill out an award  rec?” (He felt very silly after that.) Another reason people fail to fill out award recommendations for their friends is that they start writing them and doubt their assessments, especially if they don’t have the award themselves. (Addressing the Crown, in any form, can be intimidating to some.) Still others are hesitant to promote and discuss their friends in meetings because they worry about their personal bias. Moreover, there are many times when the lack of an award is the result of something extremely positive: people assume, because of your skill, that you already have the award! 

(Note: please don’t assume people have awards, especially when you haven’t seen them wearing the regalia for said award. Check your kingdom’s order of precedence and proceed accordingly.) 

If you’re waiting for an award, don’t worry about why you haven’t received it. There are a host of reasons it hasn’t come yet and rarely are they personal or negative. Your friends love you and you are a valuable part of your kingdom, regardless of your rank. 

How to Deal with Feeling Jilted:

Fighters probably experience this feeling the most: the frustration watching someone you feel you have a technical advantage over receiving an award you covet before you. My lord husband always says, in regards to a fighter passing him up for an award even though he can usually beat that person in tournament, “I probably just have his number. Clearly lots of other people do not.” 

Perhaps your view of the situation is skewed; it’s hard to be objective about one’s own skill even when compared to another and you should ask someone you trust for perspective. Perhaps you may actually be ahead of a person awarded: that doesn’t mean they’re not ready for the award, it just means that you haven’t gotten one for one reason or another and having another person be held back just because you haven’t been noticed yet isn’t going to make anything better for you. For myself, I’d rather see them get the award and feel content in my own accomplishments. Don’t depend on someone else for your happiness!

I hope this missive proves helpful. Awards are lovely, but they’re not everything. Getting an award won’t add to your quality of life or improve your skill, those are things only you can do. Enjoy your hobby and your friends, and let other people fall over themselves over their place in the OP. 

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When at first you don’t succeed…

Well, I learned from the first mistake:

The pattern I got from the YouTube video, while lovely, was chunky because it simply knitted every row resulting in a knit that was way too thick. Also, the pattern made a very unstable edge to sew, which resulted in a flimsy seam. (Not to mention the yarn and gauge were too big.)

To correct this, I purled to stitches on the edges to be sewn to create a seam allowance and stabilize the seams. To make the garment lay more nicely, I knitted a stitch row and purled a row, which resulted in a beautiful, almost lattice-like criss-cross pattern on the purled side. Also, I made it with thinner yarn.

The resulting cardigan is exactly what I hoped for.

 

I have some more medieval projects on my plate for the near future, but between Lilies and the Baby’s due date, I expect I’ll be making more cute things.

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My Ladye’s Handmaid… A review of the novel: “A Handmaid’s Tale.”

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Let me preface by saying that I don’t have Hulu and have not seen the television drama, I have only read the book.

To begin with, while I appreciate the structure of the first-person narrative, I find the lack of quotation marks to be exceedingly annoying and amateuristic. Also, when viewed in the context of the epilogue, the lack of quotation marks seems even more inappropriate given the type of literature the novel was intended to emulate.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel, apparently intended to be set in the near future of the publish date, possibly the early aughts of the 21st century. In this reality, the Caucasian West, at least in the United States has long been plagued by infertility caused by nuclear activity (reactor leaks near cities, etc) and by chemical pollution.  Terrorists shoot up Congress, killing the president and all lawmakers, resulting in suspension of the Constitution, which remains indefinite. Islamic terrorists are blamed and an American Christian fanatic group called “Sons of Jacob” take control of the country and institute an extreme version of Biblical law…  One which a person who is actually a Christian would never entertain, but after all, claiming the mantle of intellectualism automatically makes someone an expert in the field. (Yes, I am annoyed.)

In an effort to stem the problem of infertility, the Sons of Jacob abolish all marriages preceded by divorce, claim any resulting children as wards of the state and give them to moral families who happen to be longing for children. (Which, we’re given to understand, was everyone during this period.) The husbands are executed, imprisoned, etc, and the wives are given the choice between slaving in radioactive wastelands or become Handmaids, ie surrogate mothers without turkey basters or the use of medicine to track ovulation or assist in fertility. (This choice is also given to presumably fertile women who aren’t virgins or are lesbians.)

This is not the only constraint put on women, by far. Prior to the takeover, women are stripped of property and the ability to work outside the home, unless they live in someone else’s home as a servant. Following the takeover, women are also forbidden to read, young virgins are married off to pimply faced youths they have never met, and older, unmarried women who have no prospects of bearing children are sent off to the radioactive wastelands to assist with the clean up.

This was my first dystopian novel and likely my last. While I feel the “slippery slope” argument has merit in terms of the future of the environment or even as a cautionary in regards to the advancement of technology, when it comes to ideological debates, there are too many nuances to consider. By now, you’d think we’d understand that things are not black and white, but this novel relies on an interpretation that is just that.

As a Christian, I also feel more than a little put out by the general sense from liberal fans of the book and show that this fictitious society is the ultimate goal of Evangelical Christians.

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Let me be clear that the society created in this novel is anethema to Christian values both theologically and Biblically, although there are extreme sects of professed Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc, who have fallen into legalistic traps. (Take, for instance, the Amish and Orthodox Jewish cultures in the United States, or the oppressive Islamic States in the Middle East.)

First of all, while polygamy was permitted in the Old Testament, it was not prescribed. Abraham married one wife at a time (he still had a few years in him after Sarah died), Isaac had one wife, Jacob only ended up with two wives on a fluke, and Moses had one wife. Men who had more than one wife always found themselves with more family strife than anyone wants to deal with. More importantly in the context of this discussion, the use of handmaidens as surrogate mothers always ended badly and was definitely not held up as a positive example. The first time a handmaid was used was not in the instance of Rachel as highlighted by the references in the book, but because Sarah got tired of waiting on God to fulfill His promise. The conflict we see in Israel today between Jews and Muslims can be laid at the feet of Sarah’s unholy arrangement.

Jacob, who had wanted to marry Rachel for love, was tricked by his father-in-law into marrying her older sister… so, to marry the woman he loved, he ended up with two wives. (Given that they were cousins and he was abiding in his father -in-law’s household, he probably was effectively guilted out of divorcing Leah.) Leah proved fertile as God’s compensation for the fact that her husband didn’t love her, but it was harder for Rachel, who pulled the handmaid trick of her grandmother-in-law. Leah then got greedy and pulled her own handmaid trick, while Rachel eventually had children of her own, resulting in four women bearing 12 sons and one daughter… And no one could ever say that the majority of Jacob’s children got along very happily or brought him much joy. Let’s not forget the time they broke their father’s treaty and ransacked Shechem, the time they sold Jacob’s favorite son into slavery and told their dad he had died, not to mention one son having an affair with Rachel’s handmaid… (And on, and on…) These are not stories of how we should live, they’re stories to show us what happens when we live like that.

Next, Biblical law is not against women owning property, engaging in trade, or holding high standing in the community. Proverb’s 31 describes the ideal wife as someone who is business-savvy, Deborah was a prophetess who led the Hebrew army, and Tirzah and her sisters established the right of daughters to claim inheritance. These examples wouldn’t exist if the laws were against it. Even in the New Testament, it is clear that women followed Christ along with the Disciples and often showed greater faith than their spiritual brothers. When Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to Mary Magdalene first. Paul makes it clear that Timothy (whom he had mentored) had inherited a legacy of faith from the examples of his mother and grandmother. When the great men of the Bible were falling off track, it was often their wives who put things back together. Also, it is important to note that leaders of the Christian church in the New Testament were charged to keep to one wife and that fidelity was paramount.

The society created in the novel utterly flies in the face of Biblical teachings and examples. Children were a blessing given to marriage, not the purpose for marriage. While fertility was paramount to the growing nation of Israel, the mandate given unto modern Christians is no longer to be fruitful and multiply (which, I might add is no where in the Ten Commandments because it is not a universal or transcendent mandate), but to proclaim the gospel unto all people.

However, this would explain why the Gileadeans of the novel were so against female literacy: everything they did defied the laws of God as well as humanity.

Finally, in the wake of the Hulu show’s popularity, I have personally read several comparison’s between our present and the novel’s fictional society. Once more, the slippery slope model relies on generalities and fails to consider a plethora of nuances. I’m not saying it’s impossible; after all, the Third Reich did slaughter millions, but we are armed with the example of history. In the rise of social media and networking, as well as globalization that will not disappear no matter how much Trump (who is not a Christian) spouts, “America first,” it would be quite a fete.

Mysogyny (and the abuses it breeds, like sexual assault and harassment) is not rooted in a particular religion, otherwise certain groups would be free of it. Nor does it stem from religion in general, or professed atheists would be immune to it. (And I have often wanted to reach into my television and slap Bill Maher silly when bemoans the MeToo movement as a form of hypocritical hysteria that’s spoiling his favorite movies and making good old boys go away.)  Mysogyny transcends religion, ethnicity, culture, and class. It infects every sphere of society from the halls of government to the privacy of our homes. It is a human problem and to continue paint it as the product of Christianity in a post-Christian society, is closed-minded and prejudiced.

I also feel that women fitting themselves for caps and red gowns as though this dystopia is upon us are like American Christians, sitting in their 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom houses with finished basements and two cars, saying they’re being persecuted, while Christians in the Middle East and China live in fear of their lives. The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a cautionary for us, but the world of Gilead is a reality for women the Middle East and developing countries. Noura Hussein was recently sentenced to death after she was sold at the age of sixteen to an older man who raped her because she stabbed him while he attempted to rape her again.  Around the world, women are plagued with genital mutilation, denied education, married off as children, and kidnapped from their families to be raped (married) by militant groups. Women in the West should be looking to aid them in their reality rather than living in paranoia of a fictional future. We’ve beaten Gilead here.

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All that is knit does not matter…

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Not every arts and crafts project goes as planned… this project, for example, took two attempts to reach a barely acceptable outcome.

It’s been a while since I’ve had such a monumental disappointment when it comes to garment production. To be fair, this is my very first attempt at a baby cardigan, but this is also just plain ugly. Also, I know I usually favor a loom,  but I felt for this project, needles would be simpler. However, I think I figured out how to recreate this pattern on a loom with relative ease. (Perhaps it’s time for a YouTube channel that isn’t dedicated to Hamlet fan videos?)

As frustrating as this project is, it has not been without its merit. Every project is an experiment in its own rite: once completed, the artist can determine how to repeat the successes and correct the mistakes. Successes of this project: easy, beautiful pattern, as well as new techniques to employ in the future. Mistakes in this project: too flimsy on the edges and too large. Next time, I will use a smaller yarn and smaller needles as well as create a “seam allowance” by purling two stitches at the beginning and end of every row, as well as straight purling two rows before casting off at every junction to be sewn.

I’ll try the abysmal attempt at a cardigan on a doll at a later date to see if it looks better in 3D than it does lying flat; however, at this juncture, I think I’m going to throw this one away when no one is looking.

In the meantime, I have a lot of sewing to do to be ready for Lilies…

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Motherhoode

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It’s taken a surprising amount of time to pull everything back together after Kingdom Arts and Sciences. It’s not the event that’s thrown me off, it was the preparation that took it out of me. I still haven’t unpacked my garb and books and I haven’t touched a needle and thread even though my lord husband and I will need new and altered garb for Lilies. (Front godets allow for room to grow even in a cote, but my belly isn’t the only thing expanding so gussets must be utilized.)

I have, however, been able to take time for just me and Himself. With the nicer weather, we’re actually able to visit the playground in the afternoons, which he loves. I’ve also been able to take some time to prepare Baby Number Two’s layette.

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I’ve even been working on some hand knitted things like bonnets and booties. My next project will likely be a cardigan. I wasn’t able to do this when I was pregnant the first time, but this time around I find it helps with the bonding. (Not that Himself and I ever needed help. He started kicking at 16 weeks and didn’t stop until he was born, then he came out and lifted his head to look into my face, nestled into my chest, and smiled.)

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I love that Himself is so excited about the new arrival. He wanted a sibling so badly that, before I was pregnant, I asked if he wanted a baby brother or sister and he said, “Yes! Come on! Let’s go store!”

He’ll be a wonderful big brother and I will be the proud mother of two handsome boys.

 

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Kingdom Arts and Sciences, 2018: My Experience (and thoughts)

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Since I’m due to give birth to my next child on the day of Queen’s Prize Tournament, it’s probably a good thing I put three entries into the tri-levels at Kingdom Arts and Sciences this year. The last time I felt able to enter a competition was before I became pregnant with,or rather before I knew I was expecting, Himself. This way, I’ll have made up for lost time should I find myself unable to enter the larger competitions following the birth of Baby Number Two.

I somewhat regret that I didn’t have the gumption to enter the Championship, especially since I scored very well at the advanced level on all my entries. Yet I’m also glad that I stuck with tri-levels due to my own psyche.

You see, the thing I always say about Arts and Sciences competitions is that they’re more like golf than tennis any day. It’s not like a fighter’s tourney where everyone is participating in the exact same activity and physically competing against each other with one clear victor. Yes, only one person walks home with the Championship or the Judge’s Choice awards, but virtually everyone can go home with a great judging score or feedback to help them continue their work.

I have a type-A personality. In school, I strove for good grades and, when I graduated Magna Cum Laude, I was happy for five minutes before feeling frustrated with myself for not graduating Summa Cum Laude. I love earning a good score sheet because it gives me the same satisfaction as scoring well on a long answer/essay exam. (Hermione Granger and Topanga Lawrence are my soul sisters and I’m proud of that!) I have never won a competition, but I have left with bags full of candy and baubles from well-wishers, exceedingly good scoring sheets in the advanced level, and advice to help me going forward. To me, that’s gratifying, satisfying, and affirming all at once!

To be sure, there was a time when I entered Arts and Sciences competitions purely for the sake of participation and becoming part of my kingdom. (Like my husband, I am Calontiri first and foremost, and a SCAdian by consequence.) During that period, I entered Queen’s Prize Tournament which, at the time was, for me, was the equivalent of swimming in the deep end with a slight current when I only knew how to doggy-paddle. Thankfully, I had friends who helped and encouraged me. (I think if I had been inspired to fly from Barony of Forgotten Sea to Three Rivers, Master Eadweard would have helped me build some Da Vinci-style wings and manned the safety net.) Moreover, I was lucky in my first experience of being judged in a competition and I landed three judges who showed me how to do things better without tearing down what I had already accomplished.

So, if the first thing to remember about Arts and Sciences competitions is that they’re more like golf tournaments than tennis matches in that you’re truly only competing against yourself and striving to present the best you can bring forth, then it follows that the second thing to remember about Arts and Sciences competitions is that they’re Nerd-Cons.

Fighters get to talk about fighting every week at practice and nearly every single event. Artisans can’t always find someone within their group who can teach them the craft they’re striving to learn or help them with the item they want to make. Nearly every event and every site has more than adequate accommodations for fighting, not every event has the resources or manpower to offer an abundance of classes. Most competitions outside of Kingdom Arts and Sciences and Queen’s Prize Tournament are decided by populace choice and, while flattering, a large number of beans in your bowl is not the same as getting feedback or help.

I entered something new for me in Kingdom Art’s and Sciences’: a musical performance. While I’ve learned where to find resources for costuming and writing, I certainly have no training in medieval music. I learned my song by ear, researched the composer and the style and did the best I could with what I had. (As it happened, I still scored 28/30 at the advanced level.) However, I walked away with research resources from one of my judges who has studied medieval music formally. While at the event, I spoke with an entrant who had been frustrated with their project, but the information they received from their judges helped them figure out how to move forward successfully and restored their optimism about the project. (Because, let’s be honest, sometimes you try you hand at something and you never want anything to do with it again because it is so frustrating.)

Few venues give one an opportunity to get genuine feedback and to share ideas with people who share your interests. In some cases, a lack of acquaintance would inhibit a gentle from approaching another person to glean knowledge from them, or perhaps prevent them from even knowing which persons were in possession of the knowledge or skill they sought. Yes, these sort of interactions can happen at any event, but only a handful of events are designed to facilitate and foster them. —Go to them!

Naturally, competitions do not always proceed with sunshine and roses for everyone. I’ve been fortunate in all my experiences, but not everyone has had that luck. In all honesty, every group is bound to have some people have perfected the art of rectal millinery to the point where they could receive a Laurel for it, were it not so distasteful and, sadly, those people can spoil a competition for an entrant. Unfortunately, there is such a dearth of judges and an abundance of social mores that make it impossible to ban such people from participating in judging. Furthermore, and this is also more frank than some people would like, some of the bad judging sessions can occur solely as the result of a personal beef between the judge and the entrant, but the judge might be fine in other scenarios. (As much as we don’t like to admit it, you can’t be friends with everyone and some people are bound to simply rub each other the wrong way.) The best way to combat the negativity is, if you’ll pardon the cliche, to be the change that one would like to see in the world and volunteer to judge.

This can’t be stressed enough: rank is not required to be a judge! I have yet to meet someone who couldn’t bring something to the judging table. Also, even when one is not judging, they can help Entrants by showing interest in their work (something that always uplifts the spirits) and praising what they’ve accomplished. You never know when your positive reinforcement may be just what someone else needs to turn their day around. (Also, it’s a great way to get to meet people and, sometimes, sample tasty stuff!) We always need judges who can be objective and, as my friends’ lady mother used to say, “speak the truth in love.”

I considered not entering Kingdom Arts and Sciences this year because the passages I had been reading in my Bible were about not bringing glory to oneself and I didn’t feel that medium was a way to share my knowledge in the form of service. (My favorite way to share what I’ve learned is by teaching classes.) But, I had the moral support of my friends and I’ve cheered enough people through competitions that I felt silly shying away from it myself. In the end, I’m glad I listened to my friends and my lord husband. (Don’t tell my love I said that: it will go to his head!) At the end of the day, I got what I really needed: which was affirmation that I am on target as an artisan.

This past Winter, some things said about my work and research behind my back made it to my ear, as things said behind one’s back eventually do. While I knew the things being said were untrue, it still got under my skin more than I would like. I needed the experience I had on Saturday to counter that negativity in a very clear way. My perceptions can lie to me, my lord husband’s perceptions can lie to him and lead to him giving me false affirmation, but three advanced-level score sheets don’t lie: 28/30, 28/30, and 28.7/30, with less than six weeks of preparation, isn’t shabby.

 

 

 

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The Virelai that Wasn’t: Singing de Mauchaut

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(Below is the documentation for my vocal performance entry for Kingdom Art’s & Sciences, 2018. I asked to be judged at the Advanced level and received a score of 28/30. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask someone to film my performance because I was so nervous. The video provided in the text is of a different singer.—The feedback I received was really positive which is always heartening with a performance entry. In a performance entry, your judges are pretty-much critiquing you as opposed to an object.)

Introduction
The piece I’ve chosen to perform, “Je Vivroie Liement” (lyrics are in the video description), was written by Guillaume de Mauchaut, most likely between 1320 and 1377. It was honestly chosen because I sing it constantly around the house and needed to share it with someone other than my husband and my son. Despite my efforts, I was unable to find sheet music for this piece and have learned the melody by ear. (The words were easily found online.) Also for love of the song, I’m “accompanying” myself on the violin.

 
Composer
Guillaume de Mauchaut is such a prolific poet/composer that, when I mentioned to the music director at my church that I was performing a song from the fourteenth century, he turned to me and said de Mauchaut’s name. Given his death in 1377, it is assumed he was born around 1300. More importantly, he was an important figure in the Ars Nova Movement, he left an enormous body of work behind, and is as synonymous with the virelai as Shakespeare is with the sonnet.

 
Virelai
The virelai lived beyond the Middle Ages as a poetic form (with a rhyme scheme that is best suited to Latin languages), but it also had a distinct musical form. De Mauchaut is lauded for his ability both to write in the poetic form and compose the accompanying music. This, like Sondheim, gave him tremendous control over his artistry and more artistic license, which is evident in this piece. However, according the Encyclopedia Britannica and Ross Duffin, de Mauchaut apparently disliked the term virelai and preferred to call his work a chanson baladée. (Duffin, 192.)

 
A virelai generally consists of three stanzas within two refrains. The third stanza mirrors the refrain resulting in a pattern like this: AbbaA.

 
Poetically, the virelai follows a number of variations on the ABAB rhyme, hence my earlier insinuation that it is best supported by Latin languages which tend to have more rhyming words than English. (Example: the Petrarchan sonnet vs the Shakespearean sonnet.)

 
Je Vivroie Liement
If de Mauchaut disliked his work being termed as virelais, perhaps this piece was his rebellion against the style or perhaps he was simply a “punk,” as Mozart was in his generation. 
To begin, the lyrics denote a typical lovesong: it praises the object of the poem to the point of near-deity and then proclaims that, unless the object return the love of the speaker, the speaker will certainly die. In terms of the style, the lyrics are true-to-form. To a modern reader not in the throes of adolescent romance, the lyrics are a little laughable. De Mauchaut, however, as both composer and poet, undermines the gravity of his lyric by setting them to a melody that is undeniably cheerful. This juxtaposition seems to highlight the fact that, in reality, the vows of servitude and promises to die without the love of the object are really just lines in the ritual of courtship. Of course they’re not sincere, but it’s the flattery that counts.

 
Stylistically, however, de Mauchaut flounts the form. While the song still is best defined as a virelai, the musical structure skips a stanza and follows an AbaA AbaA form. Poetically, de Mauchaut also stretches the rules a bit and employs an ABAB CBCB ABAB structure. The former delineation could be the result of sections being lost in notation, but I rather like to think of him as a bad boy.

 
Instrumentation
Because this piece is monophonic, meaning that it was written and intended for one voice or, at the very least, a single melody without harmony, the style of my accompaniment, while crude by modern standards, rather appropriate for the period. I’ve only heard one singer/musician, Lilli Haydn, who could both play the violin and sing at the same time and I was never very impressed with the latter. Personally, I find that I am only able to do one at a time, but, according to Duffin musical interludes between sections, rather than continuous playing, are a documentable (but not the only probable) form of accompaniment. Apparently, Johannes de Grocheio mentions only the vielle (the violin’s grandmother) as being used in vernacular monophony as bookends for the sung music. (Duffin, 141.)

 
The violin as we know it is a late period instrument, having its origins in the 16th century. In the fourteenth century, Guillaume de Mauchaut’s music would have been played on a five-stringed vielle, which looks a bit like a Ukele and a violin had a slightly deformed love-child. (Hence the fifth string.) It’s a bit larger than a violin and played, if illustrations from the period are to be trusted, across the chest as opposed to on the shoulder. (It could also be played with the button on the knee like a cello.) The bow was shaped like an actual archery bow, which is where the name comes from, and, consequently puts less pressure upon the string and is a little trickier to handle. All in all, the vielle produces a somewhat more muted sound and is less ergonomic to play due to the size and physics, but still has that velvety intonation that I love in stringed instruments. Because vielles cost between $369-$800 and I can’t justify that expense, I’ve opted to play the violin because it has been in my possession for sixteen years and I have a greater proficiency with the instrument.
While less refined than learning music from notation, learning to play a song well by ear posed a greater challenge for me when it came to developing my instrumental interpretation. In my formal training, I would scribble notes on my sheet music to aid with my bowing and volume, but, in this instance I found myself practicing and having to commit my decisions to muscle memory. Learning music by ear is also an age-old tradition and, while less exact, a much more common form of learning music for our medieval counterparts. It was during this period that the production of musical manuscripts began to flourish, but musicians without the means would have had to earn their coin upon their ears, as it were. Meanwhile, despite the introduction of written notation and publication, the tradition of learning folk music by ear has continued into the present. –In other words, while not ideal from a documentable standpoint, it is an authentic method for learning music.

 
When it came to styling my instrumental interpretation, without having a musical notation, (not that period notation would have been much help) I decided to follow the style of a gavotte, which is a classical Italian dance that features both a similar musical structure (ABAA) and rhythmic quality. I feel that the two forms mirror each other well and so the musicality paired beautifully.

 
Pronunciation
Middle French pronunciation is an Arts and Sciences entry unto itself, but I still strove to have as accurate a representation of the language in period as I could. Since I have never been a student of French in any sense, researching the pronunciation proved tricky until I found an academic resource (an article about a fifteenth century French poem) which proved to be more easily accessible. Most performers tend to sing the song with modern French pronunciation, but I learned that during this period (like in Middle English which I have studied) the French rolled their r’s and still pronounced their consonants. The language had also recently shifted from pronouncing “oi” as “oy” into pronouncing it as in “memoire.”

 
Vocalization
For my vocal performance the greatest challenge was watching the shape of my mouth and finding ways to keep the ever-repeating refrain from growing stale. Also, keeping the balance in my performance between the light-heartedness of the music and the emotions of the words is important in a foreign language piece, sung to an English speaking audience.

 

 

Works Cited
A Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music. Ed. Duffin, Ross. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. 2000.
“Virelai: French Vocal Music,” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc. July, 20th, 1998. https://www.britannica.com/art/virelai Accessed April, 20th, 2018.
“Guilluame de Mauchaut,” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc. March, 22th, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Guillaume-de-Machaut Accessed April, 20th, 2018.

Stahuljak, Zrinka. “Medieval Manuscripts Alive: Middle French.” The Iris: Behind the Scenes at the Getty. The Getty. http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/medieval-manuscripts-alive-middle-french/. Accessed Apr 20th, 2018.

 

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The Tale of Emeline: A Study in Middle English Language and Poetry

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(Below is the documentation for my bardic recitation/poetry entry for Kingdom Art’s & Sciences, 2018. I asked to be judged at the Advanced level and received a score of 28/30. You can see a video of the performance here  and read the text here.)

 

 

Project Description:
This piece , informally titled “Emeline’s Tale,” was written as the scroll text for the Silver Hammer scroll of Emeline de Moulineaux. Like all poetry, but especially poetry from this period, the sounds that the language create are as important as the appearance of the words on the page. Both illustrate the differences and similarities between Middle English, the English that developed between the Norman Conquest and the Tudor period, and the Modern English we speak today. Since the language is evolutionary, developing from its Germanic roots and French influences, it differs throughout the period, varying in degrees from its relation to its Anglo-Saxon roots. The style used in this text is intended to replicate the Middle English of Geoffrey Chaucer’s day. Likewise, the style of poetry, is based upon The Canterbury Tales, written from 1387-1400. This may go without saying, but this language was spoken in England. Although English writers during the period, especially Chaucer’s dear friend John Gower did write in other languages like French and Latin. Chaucer was Middle English’s champion author from writing original works to translating French and Latin pieces.
Composition:
The scroll text was intended to be transcribed as a label on a vinegar jar, hence the brevity. The text totals 24 lines and only 176 words. Each line is written in the Chaucerian style, which is characterized by rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. More importantly, this text was written in Middle English, which utilizes both foreign words and unique spellings. In order to make sure the calligrapher and illuminator had enough time to create the scroll, I had the text finished within a week from receiving the commission. Unfortunately, as a result of my haste, I realized that the tenth syllable was missing from the last line of the second stanza months after the fact, but I still feel quite satisfied that I managed to scan, “Kene and kunne Emeline de Moulineaux” into iambic pentameter.
My “creative method” is to write in a language I call, Menglish, which is kind of like Spanglish, but with Middle English and Modern English. While I’m not fluent in Middle English, I’m proficient enough that it proved helpful to write with as much ME as I knew and then translate my couplets as I go along. I’d often have pages of verse written in Menglish or English with the Middle English lines beneath. In order to translate the text into ME, I would either scour my copy of The Canterbury Tales or search through an online dictionary, like this one on Project Gutenberg. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10625/10625-h/dict1.html. In some instances I would deliberately use a slightly more obscure word, “like gerdoun” or I would choose a less familiar spelling, like “hym” instead of “him” etc, in order to make the reading of the piece feel more authentic and more archaic for Emeline and the people to whom she showed her scroll.
Spelling, of course, in the Middle Ages, was infinitely less uniform than it is today. For instance, some gentles may have noticed (and possibly groused at the fact) that I alternate between spelling my name as Rosalie and Rosalye. Both spellings would have been correct in period and my persona would likely have alternated in the spelling of her name from document to document. This is one Medieval trend, I hope to never see revived in real life, but engaging in the practice as an academic and artistic exercise is quite exhilarating.
The first stanza mirrors the first lines of the “General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales, but, rather than describe the budding of Spring, the stanza sets the scene for the flush of autumn, after harvest. It is intended to give the sense of a bountiful harvest and a beautiful summer by the description of “soote and grene gras,” (“sweet and green grass”). (Lines 1-2.) Just as the first thaw of Spring inspires the pilgrims of Chaucer’s tale to go on pilgrimage, the harvest inspires the Crown to go on progress from their holdfast in the Northwest to the Barony of Three Rivers. (4-6.) (At least, their group is Northwest of Three Rivers.)
Whan that Aprill with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour; …
(Chaucer, lines 1-4)

So priketh hem Nature in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages 
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes 
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes. 
And specially, fram every shires ende 
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
(Lines 12-16.)

This opening is not unique to Chaucer; utilizing this form to set a piece within a specific season and transport the audience into a specific environment, was also utilized by William Langland in Piers the Ploughman. It’s a fine setting for a pastoral and, I think, it lent itself nicely to the last camping event of the year, when Emeline was presented with her scroll.
IN a somer seson,
Whan softe was the sonne,
I shoop me into shroudes

As I a sheep weere,
In habite as an heremite
Unholy of werkes,
Wente wide in this world
Wondres to here;
Ac on a May morwenynge
(Langland, lines 1-9.)

Stylistically, I also followed a balladic format in that the text followed a story-structure: The Crown travels to the Barony of Three Rivers, there is a mock-confrontation with Emeline in the first couplet of the second stanza, Emeline is rewarded by the Crown to which the land rejoices (and they didn’t even eat Sir Robin’s minstrels!), and in the last stanza, not only are the Crown’s gifts promised to Emeline, but there is also an implication of “she lived happily ever after.” –Not easy to kill two birds with one stone, but it was still fun.
Presentation:
Just as Middle English appears differently on the page from modern English, the sound of it has the ability to add authenticity to the language and to transport the listener. At this stage, Middle English still had a very Germanic quality, with soft A’s pronounced as “Ah’s” and I’s pronounced as, “ee.” Most of consonants are still pronounced as well. For instance, if I said I know a knight named Damien, it would read, “Y know a knyghte call’d Damien,” and sound like, “Ee kuh-no a kuh-neesht-uh call’d Dah-me-en.”
Now, I learned how to pronounce Middle English from my professor, Francis Grady, when I took a class on The Canterbury Tales in college, but there are several good online resources that I’ve used to brush up or to assist students when I’ve taught classes on pronunciation.
This site gives a fairly good overview, except I was taught to pronounced words like, “Mayde” and “Say” and “Mide” and “Sigh.” (As in German, when two vowels going walking, the second does the talking.) Also, the site doesn’t appear to touch on the pronunciation of words that come from the French influence like, flour (flower) or vertu (virtue): pronounced like “fleur” and “vir-tew.”

 

http://www.nativlang.com/middle-english/middle-english-pronunciation.php

 

Also important to note is the pronunciation of the not-so-silent “e.” Put simply, if the word is followed by a word beginning with a vowel or an “h,” the “e” remains silent. If the word is followed by a word beginning with a consonant (even if the consonant is on the next line), the “e” is pronounced as a light “uh.” Example: Rosalie Langmod would be pronounced, “Rose-ah-lee-uh Lahng-mode,” whereas “Rosalie and Günther,” would be pronounced, “Rose-ah-lee ahnd Goon-turr.” (Alright, my husband’s name is German, but I think the idea is clear.)
Ultimately, speaking Middle English is one of my favorite things to do: it’s part of walking in my medieval counterpart’s shoes and experiencing what life was like during this period. Even word meanings, like lusty (which meant pleasing), had different connotations, and, in many cases, vastly different sounds. It’s not hard to learn! Give it a try!

 

Works Cited:
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Ed. Boenig, Robert and Andrew Taylor. Second edition. Broadview Editions, Buffalo. 2012.

Langland, William, The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman, Volume I . Ed. Wright, Thomas. Sept, 2013. Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43660/43660-h/43660-h.htm. Accessed Apr 20, 2018.

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A Fourteenth Century Embroidered Hood: An Example of Identity and Decadence in the High Middle Ages.

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Hello! Below is the full and un-abridged version of my documentation for my hood project. Because it clocked in at 10 pages before I had written the conclusion, added in-text citations, images, or a works cited page, I had to trim the fat from the version I will present at Kingdom Arts and Sciences. I also had to alter my formatting to take up as little space as possible. This version includes more anecdotal elements and interesting information that I had to sacrifice for the sake of brevity. (The total word count still ended at 2400.)  Since I can also be freer with my references in this medium, this version also has a few more visual aids.

(UPDATE from the event: This entry went very well. I scored 28/30. I lost a point in documentation because I didn’t include in progress-photos in order to spare my printer. -Competitions require three copies of documentation.- Instead I have a full digital album  of in progress photos and it was available to the judges. The second deduction was on workmanship because I didn’t make a pattern, I worked from math. Otherwise, they didn’t seem to find fault the item itself. I personally don’t feel that I need a pattern for a hood because I know how to make one from math, I can always trace the hood I have, and I don’t like clutter. 😉… But, it’s really no big deal. Everyone has their different preferences. I did have wonderful conversations with my judges about using fur to line future projects and it was very affirming that the only fault with my documentation was too little pictures.)

Objective and Inspiration

Currently, I have been fascinated by evidence of 14th century embellishments that are either left out or barely illustrated in surviving artwork. There are some practices we have ideas about, such as embroidered and decorated veils decried by clergymen as vanity and embroidered smocks from descriptions in Chaucer. Yet, despite the written descriptions of garments in period chronicles of historic events, household accounts, receipts, wills, poetry, etc, these embellished items have little to no surviving physical remnants. This is likely due to that fact that clothing was not something put away and preserved in a trunk, but was typically passed down to relatives and retainers, sold to certain tailors who made their living from salvaging useable fabric from garments, and possibly simply picked of the valuable bits such as jewels and appliquéd embroidery and sold as is to a lower class person. (Crane, 11.)

During Joan of Arc’s well-documented trial, she was asked what sort of dress she would wear if she were to wear a dress. The fashion of the upper class, ie the artistically depicted class of Joan’s period, was the v-neck style gown we refer to as the Burgundian gown. The dress Joan requests by name and description is a houppelande, which is noted as being the fashion for the daughters of the merchant class. (Crane, 85-86.) This can be seen as an indication that our Medieval counterparts wasted not and wanted not as well as highlights the fact that the even the more financially affluent merchant class was still set apart from the nobility at first sight by stylishness of their apparel. We see hints of this in works of art like the Luttrell Psalter, where the aristocratic women are depicted in fitted gowns and surcotes, whereas the lower-class women look like they’re wearing shabbier versions of gowns from the Manesse Codex.

One work, Susan Crane’s “Performance of Self,” has especially intrigued me because of her focus on the importance of wardrobe in identity and, in pursuit of her ultimate goal of the exposing the mental quandaries of medieval self-creation and presentation, she conveniently digs up accounts of sleeves embroidered with lines of music using pearls to represent the notes, warring mottos stitched on sleeves of rivals, (Crane, 18.) and the politics of pageantry (21-29) for the easy consumption of the amateur historian. The descriptions of self-identification and presentation using imagery and decoration inspired me to create a garment, on a smaller scale, that stated my identity and reflected the gaiety of embroidered garments, and the sumptuousness, of decorating garments in pearls and silk.

Materials

Fabric:

Primary: Medium weight, 58” wide, twill woven, worsted purple wool. My rule with fabric is to zig-zag stitch the raw edges and machine wash it with soap on a hot/cold setting and run it through the dryer on high to pre-shrink it. With linen, this softens the fabric up for usage and it gives wool a nice, fulled finish that I love. However, this particular wool came to me in a width that would have been available in Middle Europe in the 14th century, and it already had a slightly fulled texture without disguising the weave, which would have been the practice in period.

In most instances, my primary reason for pre-treating the fabric before cutting it is to insure that I’ll be able to wash the finished garment without fear of it shrinking and to be sure that I get most of the excess dye out,  but given the embellishments on this hood, I think it highly unlikely I will ever feel comfortable machine washing it, making this step superfluous. It would also make the twill weave less visible, which is counter-productive to the look I want to create.

This fabric is also used for the facing.

 Lining: Handkerchief weight, white linen. This fabric was chosen as plan D. My original plan was to line the hood with rabbit fur, but purchasing enough pelts for the task proved to be too much strain on the budget after the other materials were purchased. The next choice was a white silk I had been gifted years ago, but a burn test revealed that the fabric was actually polyester. Plan C was a light-weight, black, habotai silk which was horrible to sew and tore irreparably when I had to take out a seam. I hated it too much to salvage it. Finally, I used this linen from my stash and my love of sewing was restored.

Thread:

Construction: Single ply, white linen thread. (For both hood and the lining.)
Embroidery: 2ply gold silk floss.
Seam finishes (on hood):2ply, purple silk floss.
Seam finishes on lining: Single ply, white linen thread.
Ornamentation: 5-6mm freshwater pearls.

Patterning

While my inspiration is taken from text, I’ve also applied the visuals of pieces illustrated in the mid-14th Century, namely images from The Romance of Alexander, circa 1338-44; however, the closest extant examples of hoods from the region (ie Central Western Europe) is a late 14th century deposit from London.

 

The best preserved example shows the addition of godets sewn into straight panels on the sides of the shoulders. (Crowfoot, 190-191.) In this instance, the region of the garment is just as important as the period when it comes to examining patterns because, while the more remote regions like Greenland continued to use weighted looms that produced 27” wide fabric in the 14th century, the burgeoning and industrious regions of Europe were producing wool fabric on horizontal looms at four meters in width. Once the fabric was taken off the loom, it was fulled to strengthen it and the fuzz was combed and trimmed off the top. This process shrunk the fabric by 54-56 percent, so the resulting width would be 2.16-2.26 meters or 85”-88.” (Munro, 8-9.)

While fabrics produced during the 14th century were certainly wide enough to accommodate the “two seam” pattern that is popular and efficient in most hoods we make in the SCA, the London hood utilizes a pattern that is both simplistic and fabric-frugal. While it should be noted that the style of hood achieved by this pattern was worn across all classes, including the working class in late 14th-early 15th century artwork, the uniform use of godets from both the London hood as well as multiple Greenland finds affirms that, while fabric in the 14th century could be produced in large quantities, the cost of materials was still greater than the price of labor for the craftsmen who transformed them into workable and beautiful objects. Crane notes that the cost of materials for Queen Phillippa’s famous Easter outfit in 1332 was 54 pounds sterling, the same value as Chaucer’s “annual salary as clerk of the king’s works plus several years’ rent on his house… in Westminster.” (12.)

When it comes to utilizing a later extant pattern in the recreation (or stylized imitation) of an earlier piece or pieces represented in art, one must engage his good judgement and discernment in comparing the physical examples with the shape and form of the image or images. In  the case of the London Hoods, the patterning clearly creates a very pronounced face portion, most notable in illustrations of Christine de Pizan, whereas the hoods in the middle part of the fourteenth century, exemplified in The Romance of Alexander, show much less pronounced shaping in the front. The London hoods were made from cutting two small squares out of two larger squares and utilizing the smaller squares as godets. This made a very fitted hood from a smaller amount of fabric. It is clear from the draping of the hoods in The Romance of Alexander, utilize a little more fabric and take a much less pronounced look in the front.

Despite the fact that the earlier hoods seem to have used slightly more to much more fabric than the later examples, the shape can still be achieved using a modest amount of fabric and a modified version of the London Hood pattern.

My head circumference is just under 23,” half of that is 11.5.” The distance from one shoulder to the over going along and over my head and neck, is 35.”  Adding a short lirpipe extends the width another 12”.The width of my fabric is 58,” and when I cut an 24” swath from the length and 35.5” out of the 58” width, I’m left with a rectangle 24”x 22.5” for godets. Because I only need about 8.5” (including seam allowance) for my godets, I cut off a rectangle 8.5”x24” and saved the remainder, then I folded the rectangle in half long-ways twice, cut along the diagonal, and had three full godets and two half godets. I only need two godets in that width and height, so I cut the remaining godets into strips along the bias to use as facing. (Because my fabric is a twill, I wanted to keep the grain of my fabric going down.) The fabric I cut from the hood for the back seam and lirpipe was used for facing as well. For the face, I cut out a small “half-gore” from the front beneath the spot where my chin would end.

This pattern allowed me to construct a hood using under a yard of fabric. Because the minimum amount I can order from my supplier is three yards, I’ll have 2 and 1/3 yrds of wool left to use on other projects… That is medieval economy at its finest!

To add a lirpipe or not… In my two visual sources of inspiration, the image of the woman wearing an embroidered hood as a hat with the hood’s skirt hanging behind her shoulders, it is difficult to tell if the hood has a lirpipe or not. It’s possible that the fold across the top of her head is created by a thicker lirpipe being wrapped around to hold the hood in place, but not certain. My secondary source, the one used for my silhouette, a miniature from the same manuscript, shows a short fat lirpipe, but there also images within the same manuscript that give no hint of lirpipe. In the Luttrell Psalter, there are several examples of hoods devoid of lirpipes… In other words, anything goes.

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Construction

The main hood was constructed using single ply white linen sewn in a tight running stitch. (Crowfoot, 155.)With most woollen garments , it is clear they were sewn using vegetable thread, most likely linen. (Crowfoot, 151.) The seams on the London hood and many extant woolen finds were not finished and I could have left mine alone when done, but, because I intended to embroider the hood, I wanted the seams to lay nicely in place. In most wool garments, the fabric would be folded over once and stitched down on the edge. I personally find the hem stitch easier when dealing with thick fabric, especially in multiple layers, and, again due to the embroidery, I wanted a nearly invisible seam finish which is most easily achieved with a flat felled finish and hem stitch, or double hem stitch. (Crowfoot, p. 157.) The wool thread I had intended for the finish turned out to be too red so purple silk was the best I could acquire in a matching color at short notice, but silk is an appropriate choice for embellishment stitches. (Crowfoot, p. 152.)

My stitches are a bit smaller and closer together than those seen in extant garments, but then modern conveniences have given me more leisure time than my medieval counterpart. Moreover, this hood is supposed to be for a noble woman, like my SCA persona, who would have had more time on her hands to improve her sewing skills or pay someone who made their trade in sewing and did it well.

Because of the embroidery, I’ve had to be flexible with the lining of the garment. In period, when garments were lined (and unlined was just as common) they were lined using the interfacing or interlining technique wherein the lining is cut with the pieces, sewn together, then assembled with the lining on the inside. Since I needed to have the piece assembled before I started the embroidery, I had to compromise and make a half sack-lined, half interlined garment. (Not as perfect as I’d like, but my original plan was to line the garment with fur and I couldn’t have used an interlining method for that.)

I cut the black silk along with the wool to the pattern so that the pieces were exactly alike. I finished the wool portion first  in order to have the key elements done should I find myself on a time constraint prior to the competition. The construction of the lining went awry and, since I hated sewing the habotai and I wouldn’t be able to completely duplicate the pattern pieces as it was, I switched to linen. I folded in the godets of the completed wool portion so that the seams were touch and traced the pattern onto the linen and used an undamaged godet from the silk lining to make a pair of matching godets. After the lining was constructed and the seams were finished, I tacked the back seam of the lining to the back seam of the hood, laid the front raw edges against the facing and sewed them as though they were matching pieces, not like a pillow. I used a three inch piece of wool along the face portion and cut two custom pieces to fit the sides from unused scraps. The hem was faced with bias tape made from unused godets.  Again, the technique isn’t as documentable as I would like, but it was the best option with the plan in mind.

Of course, every plan D has its share of advantages and difficulties. The advantage of using the linen was that it satisfied my weird, tactile peevishness. (I hate sewing with fabric that doesn’t make me happy; linen makes me happy.) However, because my pattern pieces weren’t exact, I found myself with more wool than linen by the time I was half way through the second half of my last bit of facing. Taking it apart and redoing it wasn’t an option due to both time constraints and the worry that doing so could damage the fabric. I also couldn’t take out second godet and cut it down because I would be cutting through embroidery. The only option this left me with was to sew down the sides of the godet along the seams. Thankfully, discreet stitches are my strength so the finished product was much better than I expected at the beginning.

Ultimately, while I do feel that linen is a little less elegant than I had intended for my “example of decadence in the High Middle Ages,” I’m satisfied that the garment will be more comfortable to wear since linen and wool breathe, but silk insulates. I also feel that, despite being exceedingly frustrating, the setbacks and imperfections I encountered challenged and stretched me as a seamstress.

Embroidery

The life of this piece is in the embroidery because it both serves as an example of possible medieval embellishments and embodies the theme of self-identification and presentation. My device and badge both consist of purple roses on a gold field. Since my favorite color is purple, I felt that embroidering the outline of roses onto a purple field (and have a purple garment as a result) would best mirror the designs seen in period art work. Not only are roses in my device, they also serve as a descant on my name: hence the self-identification and self-presentation.

 

I decided to embroider the roses with a stem stitch. Not only is it as common throughout the Middle Ages as it is today, I felt that it was a stitch that would work well over multiple curves and it was one I had never tried before.

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Stem stitch used in the “Bayeaux Tapestry.

My original plan was to create the lines that flow along the bottom of the hood and across the front by couching down gold filament thread, but that proved to be costly to acquire and my experiments with couching down the polyester imitation thread weren’t worth effort. (I spent an entire evening couching down one section only to have to take it up when I was done.) Still, I learned something new and I wasn’t keen on using a synthetic copy when I had gone to such lengths to acquire silk, pearls, and fine wool for the project. I opted for a chain stitch because it’s wide and pops out well with the gold silk against the purple.

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I had set out to embroider four pearls to “seed” the roses, but after I had sewn three pearls, I saw that they resembled trefoils, which are featured in my family’s real coat of arms. It lent itself to the theme of self-identification and presentation quite nicely. I also love my family and I seized on the opportunity for a quiet tribute to my heritage. The pearls are freshwater pearls imported from China, but my persona would likely have had access to them as they were commonly used in medieval jewelry and both Scotland and France were rich sources for them.

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Conclusion

While this piece tested my skill and forced me to make compromises, it also enabled to explore avenues of creativity (such as embroidery) that I have never touched on. Also, it is not my first embroidered hood, but it’s the first one that I’ve made for myself and I’m quite happy to have a new statement piece in my wardrobe… And to be able to speak with more confidence about ornamentation in the High Middle Ages.

 

 

Works Cited:

Crane, Susan. The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity During the Hundred Years War. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2002.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, et al. Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. The Boydell Press, Rochester, NY.   2001.

Munro, John. “Luxury and Ultra-Luxury in Later Medieval and Early Modern European Dress:    Relative Values of Woollen Textiles in the Low Countries and England, 1330-1570.”   For Session 25 of the XIVth International History Congress, on: “Luxury, Production, Consumption, and the Art Market in Early Modern Europe. Aug, 2006. Helsink.fi URL:  http://www.helsinki.fi/iehc2006/papers1/Munro.pdf. Accessed April 19th, 2018.

The Romance of Alexander. 1330-1344. Bodleian Library, Oxford. http://image.ox.ac.uk/show?collection=bodleian&manuscript=msbodl264. Accessed, April 19th , 2018.

The Luttrell Psalter. 1320-1340. British Library, London. British Library Website.            http://www.bl.uk/turning-the-pages/?id=a0f935d0-a678-11db-83e4-0050c2490048&type=book. Accessed, April 19th, 2018.