Location: Barony of Blackstone Mountain, Æthelmearc
Category/Level: Modern Recreationist/Intermediate
About Kathryn: I joined the Society in 1988, before Æthelmearc was even a Principality of the East. I have been helped start two Shires and my own Barony, served in various Offices for all three plus another Shire, and have been Granted Arms for my Service to the Kingdom. I still remain a student of many things, master of none, but about the only thing I haven’t tried is Martial Combat. I will never be a Laurel, or even a Fleur d’Æthelmearc (grant) for my sewing or art, but all my gowns are my own work, which is simple cotehardies and surcoats I love from 11th Cent design. For my years of experience alone, I will apply for Intermediate, as I am far from a beginner, but mastery is beyond me. This will be a chance to try out a new fiber art, use what skills I do have for sewing, as well as attempt embroidering designs on the planned sleeve trim. Or, I might simply make a few yards of lucet cord and stitch it down. My plans, even at this late date, are still fluid.
Her Project: I am planning an 11th Cent Norman chemise, underdress, and overdress with card-woven belt, as a lady of the manor might have worn in cooler weather. This will not be based off a particular source, but drawn from many. I hope to have it finished for a possible 12th Night next year, or the annual Tournement of the White Hart (and love and beauty) in March. While I am tempted to have it show my awards, I do not think my embroidery is up to doing the AoA and Grant level Service awards for Æthelmearc. I was not planning to make this project, but your Challenge gave me a kick to use some of my stash. Unfortunately, I do not have suitable linen for the chemise, so it will be gold cotton. The underdress will be a cotehardie with fitted sleeves and bodice, of either red or blue linen (still juggling that decision), while the overdress will be a lined bell-sleeved cote with trim of the underdress’s linen on sleeves and hem. I am planning my first-ever Card-woven belt, with gold and red chevrons bordered with blue for my 4th item, and also plan a wimple and hat similar to GoT Olenna Tyrell’s lovely headdresses, in honor of Dame Diana’s passing. Of course, all plans are subject to contact with the enemy, and what I Plan may not be what I get. *sigh*
Layer one is a basic chemise, which is ubiquitous from Early Greek to 1700s women’s undergarments. This neatly covers my late 10th/early 11th Cent Norman/Saxon period. I used a 60in width gold mid-weight cotton and the SCA-favorite T-Tunic pattern. The width meant I could cut the full sleeves and the full width of the hem without any gores or piecing, and gave me a lot of excess fabric for other projects. With the dress all one piece, that left me with only two seams to sew up. First, I cut the neckline, and did a simple tuck-n-fold instead of a facing. I also did the simple fold for the wrists. Both the neckline and the wrists were hand-stitched down with a simple running stitch. Then I used my sewing machine to start at the wrists and sew down each side, then went over it again with a stay-stitch to prevent fraying. After the sides were sewn, I laid the dress out and curved the hem, then did a double-fold hem with my sewing machine. After that, I used my Lucet to braid with #10 crochet thread in red and blue, using a technique where both colors are cast on the horns, and then the threads crisscrossed to create designs in the cord. I free-handed a pattern of dual solid color sections spaced between sections of the two colors chevroned, for a total of a few inches over 12ft. This red/blue cording was used to decorate the wrists and completely around the hem.
Layer 2 is a kirtle. Kirtles were found from the 800s-1300s throughout Western Europe in women’s fashion, and were worn over a chemise either with or without a layer atop it. This meant it was suitable for my target of a late 10th/early 11cent Norman/Saxon. For the kirtle I used a 45in width mid-weight blue linen. After discovering that ALL my dress patterns were missing, I jury-rigged a pattern based on my current measurements and an older dress I made from the missing pattern. The pattern has inset sleeves in the bodice, a slightly fitted waist, and then flares straight to the hem. The bodice was cut on a double fold, the sleeves on a single. Each piece of the dress (bodice and two sleeves) were stay-stitched around every cut area with my sewing machine.
Instead of a facing, I turned the fabric under on the neck and wrist and hand-stitched it down with a running stitch. After hemming the neck and wrists, I used my machine to inset the sleeves, then machine-sewed the side-seams from the wrist to the hem. I then laid the kirtle out and curved the hem before double-folding and machine-sewing it down.
From cutting to finishing the hem took roughly 4hours. The next part took most of October into November, as I used #10 Crochet thread in red and yellow to create roughly 14ft of cording, in freehand pattern of dual solid color sections separated by a chevron of both colors mixed. I hand-stitched the cording around the neckline, the wrists, and completely around the hem.
My 3rd Layer is a cotehardie or surcote, common to the 9th-11th Cent. women’s fashion. This was the top layer, meant to show off the lady’s wealth or sewing skills. It was often gored, heavily embroidered, and often with different sleeve treatments to show off the kirtle beneath. I chose to use a pattern found in Coptic, Norse, and Saxon grave-finds, with a straight central bodice, 3/4 length bell-sleeves, and a gore that attaches to the sleeve before sleeve and gore is sewn to the bodice. Due to the loss of my dress patterns, I had to go off straight measurements and my memory of how to piece it.
Before sewing the pieces together, I took advantage of having them as flat sections to not only stay-stitch every cut area, but to create a facing for the neckline and sleeves out of the gold cotton. This was all hand-sewing, to make sure the facings would flip to the outside correctly. After stitching the facings down, I then took red and blue DMC floss and free-handed a scalloped pattern on the gold facings, using an outline stitch. The sleeves is a simple scallop, the neck facing I inter-wove the lines more. After the embroidery was finished, I then attached the gores to the bottom of the sleeves, and pinned the sleeve and gore to the straight bodice. Starting at the shoulder, I sewed first down the front, then the back of the dress. That way, the fabric did not skew the sleeve or the shoulder. After attaching the second sleeve and gore, but before sewing up the sides, I draped it over me. THAT is when I discovered I’d mis-measured, and would need additional gores in the sides. Thankfully I had enough scrap to cut the gores (2 per side). Again, I machine-sewed from the underarm to the hem, but the tip of the gore I hand-stitched to the sleeve. After this emergency, I was able to machine-sew from the wrists to the hem, and had to admit the extra gores did give the dress a better flow. I laid out the dress and curved the hem, then double-folded and sewed it down with the sewing machine. The dress was done by November check-in, other than the final decoration.
By this time, I’d made two lengths of cording for the other dresses, and was getting burnt out. I managed to make 7ft of blue/yellow cording, in a pattern of dual solid color separated by chevrons of mixed color, and I was burnt out. This is why the cotehardie only has lucet cord on the front hem and not completely around. The cording does go from side seam to side seam, covering all the gores and the central section, but I simply could not complete the circuit.
Woven belts can be seen wrapped around ladies’ waists in paintings and sculptures from the 900s up til the 12th century. These all seem to be patterned in colored thread/yarn/cloth, with braided or decorated ends. Sometimes they wrapped twice, sometimes only once, and were usually knotted, not caught with a buckle. Grave finds in Britain, France, and Scandinavia have suggested they were card or tablet woven on looms.
I have never tried to card-weave anything, although I have been allowed to try it out at events. This was going to be my Rookie Project.
I found a pattern via Pinterest that seemed easy. It took 14 cards, and would be a simple 8 turns forward, 8 turns back to create a >><<>><< pattern. This pattern can be found all over Europe as scraps of trim, and is the base of several trims sold in by SCA merchants (see Calontir Trims).
I bought several skeins of 2.5 worsted yarn in red, blue, and gold. I received as a gift from my Baroness a full pack of playing cards, punched and cut to proper size. Following the pattern I found, I cut roughly 3.5yard sections of yarn and threaded the cards as instructed. Then came the fun part. I had no loom, so I decided to improvise. I upended my cutting table and strung the yarn over the upturned legs. Then, I discovered I needed more tension, and decided a chunk of wood tied to the working end would be a good work-around.
I started working on my jury-rigged loom, and it started out ok. I used the blue yarn for the warp, remembered to count the turns, and was feeling good about it. Of course that couldn’t last. Everytime I had to advance the weft, I either lost count of turns or didn’t get the tension back on the weft properly. Due to the looser tension, the cards started catching on each other and sometimes I didn’t catch it for several turns. This caused the pattern to muddle, or for sections to get skipped. Yet, I persevered and fought my way turn by turn to the end of the weft. I braided the ends, tied them off, and nearly wept because it didn’t look like I wanted it to look.
When I could look at it again, I added two sets of three cheap metal bells to each of the braided ends.
- Veil: Women have worn veils for millennia. I don’t believe there is a date that one can point to and say ‘this is when it started’, but veils only started going out of fashion with Elizabeth I. During the late 10th/early 11th centuries, the veil was in full swing, worn with a hat that’s been referred to as a ‘filet’, or less flatteringly as a ‘coffee-filter hat’. The filet is a stiffened center of some material, covered with a richer material and either pleated or otherwise decorated. All of the work on the veil and filet was done by hand, and the filet is the one that finally made me bleed — TWICE.
- The veil is 45in width light-weight natural linen, cut in a long oval 45inches long and roughly 25inches wide. My mother compared it to a NASCAR track. I double-folded the fabric and used a diagonal stitch to hem the full circle. Then, I took gold DMC floss and free-handed a scalloped outline stitch just inside the hem. I felt it needed more, and so I took red and blue DMC floss and made simple 6-pointed stars in the outer edge of the scallop.
- Filet : The filet is made from a bias-cut scrap of the gold cotton used for my First Layer, the chemise. I found a double-walled cardboard 13in cakeboard, and cut a 1.5inch strip for the inside stiffener, bending it to curve properly. Before I sewed the cotton into a tube, I decided to bead it. My grandma had kept a broken necklace with pearls already string two by two on wire. I used needle-nosed pliers to remove the twinned pearls, salvaging 6 sets. I laid them in a simple circle and stitched them down on the center front of the cotton with button stiches through the wire ends. Next, I used a diagonal hand-stitch to make a tube. After I turned the tube right side out, I slid the cardboard inside. I used postal tape to strength the cardboard’s ends, and then stapled the ends together with a slight overlap. I covered the staples with more postal tape to protect the fabric. I pulled the fabric to overlap, tucked in the raw edges, and blanket-stitched the seam.
- Lucet Cord