I first learned of the Society for Creative Anachronism in 2007, while attending the University of Florida in Gainesville. Growing up, I had always loved Renaissance & Medieval Fairs. My parents had taken me to the Sarasota Medieval Fair every year during middle school and high school. When I was old enough to drive, I dragged my friends to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa. Then, after I left home for college, I would go to the local Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville. One year, the local SCA group set up a pavilion and demo at Hoggetowne and I was thus introduced to the world of recreating Medieval life.
Despite my introduction to the SCA in 2007, I didn’t reach out to my local group for another six years. Then, in 2013, after I had relocated to the Washington DC metro area, I found the Barony of Storvik in the Kingdom of Atlantia.
And that is where my story begins.
This site will be ever-changing, as I write new blog posts on events I’ve recently attended and also catch up on posting about past events and projects that I’ve already completed. Feel free to scroll through and post questions & comments as you like.
In November of 2017, I began the first steps towards forming a student-teacher relationship with Her then Excellency, now Princess Adelhait Fuchs. Her Highness and I agreed to a trial-period of at least one year before we would formalize our relationship with a contract. In 2018 we agreed that we felt our relationship to be a good fit and so we began making preparations for my Companion Ceremony.
While there are variations of student-teacher ceremonies throughout the Knowne World, there are some traditions that seem to be most common. In addition to the tradition of a contract and the gifting of a belt or favor, there are often gifts exchanged between student and teacher. When planning for the ceremony began, I started to brainstorm a list of potential gifts for Her Excellency based on what I knew regarding her whims and preferences.
I came up with many ideas, but the one that seemed to stick was the idea of a painted jewelry box. This idea was originally inspired by Dame Emma West, who painted a mirror box in the style of a reliquary box from the Uppsala Cathedral, dated from the 12th century. Her Highness, Princess Adelhait, is well known for her love of shiny things – jewelry and accessories – so I knew this would be a gift that she would both appreciate and find useful.
Originally I planned to paint a mirror box that I had purchased previously at Fool’s War in 2017. However, at Pennsic 2018, Her Highness’s husband Count Christoph purchased her a larger mirror box from Egill’s Woodstuffs and offered it to me to paint instead.
Before I began any work on the box, I sent a message to Dame Emma and asked her what steps she took in painting her box, what supplies she used, etc. She was incredibly helpful – as always – and so I followed her instructions exactly.
Next, I had to decide on a design that I wanted to use. For this step, I mostly browsed Pinterest since documentation was not of vital importance. I mainly needed visual inspiration and found plenty of examples under a search for “reliquary box”. I finally decided on the following design as inspiration since Her Highness’s persona is late period German.
After deciding on a design, I gathered my list of supplies and went to Michael’s to buy everything that I would need. I used very basic supplies for this project – nothing fancy – since this was my first time painting a box, a lot of the process would be trial and error. The first step was to gesso the entirety of the box. Gesso provides a white base layer so that the colored paints are not muted by the wood.
After painting the box with two layers of gesso, I decided to make stencils for my design. I love working with stencils – I use them for my fabric painting as well – because they allow for a precision in design that is rarely achieved when drawing or painting free-hand. I came up with two stencils that I used in various combinations on different sides of the box. These stencils were drawn by tracing a variety of circular shaped objects on a brown, paper grocery bag. Very fancy 😉
I spent a lot of time visualizing how I wanted the stencils to be arranged in order to get the design that I wanted. But once that lengthy process was complete, I started to trace the stencils directly on to the box using a regular pencil.
One the design was traced, I started to paint. Based on the box that I chose as my inspiration, I chose to work with only three colors.
I started painting the gold first. I figured that if I went “outside the lines” with the gold, that would easily be covered by the blue. Covering blue with gold would not be as easy a task.
Once I started to paint the gold I realized that I was going to need multiple layers. You can see in the picture above how light the gold color was initially and how streaky the paint started with that first layer. In the end, I had to paint four layers of gold in order to get the color that I wanted to achieve.
Luckily, acrylic paint dries relatively quickly so it can be layered easily without large amounts of time spent wasted while waiting for paint to dry.
Eventually I did need to work in time to allow the paint to dry – this ended up being the trickiest bit. I really had to plan out what sides of the box I could paint and allow to dry, while still being able to work on other parts of the box. The box also had to be flipped and laid on its side to be painted more easily, so that had to be factored in as well. In the end, I came up with a very rigid schedule of which sides I could paint when – in order to allow time for the paint to dry in between layers and the box being laid on one side or the other. This became especially important when I began to paint the remainder of the box blue.
The first part of the box to be painted blue was the removable box that sits inside of the top layer, to the right of the mirror. This smaller box was my test piece for the blue paint, and I’m very glad that I was smart enough to do it this way, because the blue paint turned out to be very disappointing.
You can see in the picture above that the blue paint was quite streaky. It was also much thicker and darker than the gold paint, not allowing for layers in the same way. I’ll admit, I had a bit of a panic attack when I first used the blue paint. The gold had layered so well and then the blue looked awful! I reached out to a few friends with more painting experience, in addition to searching the internet for a solution. One specific solution that I found online suggested adding Titanium White as a semi-opaque. Luckily this was the exact color that I bought at Michael’s. I added a dollop of Titanium White to Disappointing Blue and it worked like a charm!
I was very happy with how the blue turned out and it only required two layers, as opposed to the four layers I had to paint with the gold color.
In order to personalize the box for Her Highness, I added her device to the inside of the bottom drawer.
Once painting was complete, I used a paint pen to outline the gold motifs and add a bit of detailing. This cleaned up the line that was painted by brush.
After the outline and detailing was done, it was time to lacquer the box. This was a trial in itself. For the first attempt at lacquering, I purchased a can of liquid lacquer from Home Depot and attempted to apply it in strokes using a foam brush. This did not work well. It was difficult to regulate the amount of lacquer on the brush and the strokes were very visible to me. It was especially hard to apply inside the box, with the smaller sides and corners.
The liquid lacquer also caused a bit of a panic when I applied it to the bottom drawer over Sharpie, which I had used to outline the device, and it streaked horribly. I would never have guessed that lacquer could smear “permanent marker” but it does. Lesson learned!
When I saw the Sharpie start to streak, I set down the lacquer and stepped away for the night. The next morning I attempted to fix the streaking by painting over the first layer of lacquer. I am quite certain this is some kind of no-no in the world of painting wood, but I knew I would be applying another coat of lacquer later and it was the only way I could try and fix the problem that the lacquer had created.
After the Sharpie incident, I opted to go back to the store, purchase spray lacquer, and try that instead. Not only did it work much better, but it dried much more quickly and I was able to apply 2-3 coats, finishing the box nicely.
The final step was to add some words to the mirror. I had a friend translate Her Highness’s favorite quote from Mean Girls (a favorite movie of ours) into Latin: “You’re really pretty! So you agree, you think you’re really pretty?” – “Tu ed pulcherrima! Tum adsentis, tu putas te pulcherrimam esse?” I then used the gold paint pen to write this on the edge of the mirror. This definitely could have turned out better – I wish I had a smaller, gold paint pen to use, but I was unfortunately out of time and the lacquer incident had taken more time to resolve, leaving less time for this detail.
I applied a final coat of lacquer and then I was done!
I presented the box to Her Highness at Atlantia’s 12th Night event on January 12th.
Overall, I am very happy with how this project turned out. From start to finish, it took about two months to complete, though I was not working on it every day. It was my first time painting wood like this and while it wasn’t perfect, I managed to work around and fix most of the complications and mistakes that came up. It was a great learning experience and I already know how best to tackle another project like this in the future!
Last week there was a post to the Kingdom of Atlantia Unofficial Discussion Group (Cheapside Tavern) on the Book of Faces. This post addressed setting goals within the SCA, breaking them down into the following categories: something we do for ourselves, something we do for others, and trying something new – something that will help us break out of our comfort zone.
I rather liked this idea. As I am a very goal oriented person, I decided to try setting my goals for 2019 using this format. I decided on three goals for each category. Here they are (in no particular order) with explanation as needed:
Work to complete unfinished embroidery and sewing projects. Completing small tasks will give me a sense of achievement and motivate me to continue working on A&S projects.
Acknowledge that in the past, deadlines that were set to complete new garb were a source of stress. Plan future deadlines more carefully and/or commission or buy garb when possible in order to relieve that stress. Sometimes time is worth more than money.
Continue to update my blog with projects and event recaps.
Volunteer to help in the kitchen, serve, and/or wash dishes for any feast I attend.
Support my Peer, Her Highness Adelhait, & His Highness Christoph during their reign as needed – retaining, donating largesse, etc.
Organize Pennsic Newcomers University Track & Newcomers Point.
New to Me
Make progress on learning to play a plucked/string instrument.
Perform said instrument and/or sing at a bardic circle.
Enter an A&S competition using a new skill. New skill still TBD 🙂
In past years I have used the SMART criteria for goal-setting. While this method has been beneficial in other areas of my life, I found that setting hard deadlines for projects that were meant to be fun rarely worked well. Most of the goals I am setting this year are more broad and less time-related. I’m interested to see how well this format works!
During the summer months Roman garb becomes quite popular in Atlantia, where temperatures can reach up to 100 degrees. Typically made from natural-fiber fabrics like linen, silk, and light weight wool, these loose fitting garments are quite effective in keeping the wearer from becoming overheated.
Roman women, or matrons, wear three layers. The first layer is the tunica, made from a light-weight linen. This layer sits closest to the skin and linen is a natural choice for helping to wick sweat from the body and keep it cool. The second layer is the stola. This layer can be made from a slightly heavier linen than the tunica, silk, or a light-weight wool. I always make my stola from patterned silk. The final layer is the palla. The palla is usually 6-8 feet long and is worn draped around the body and as a head covering. My palla is made from wool gauze.
Roman garb is incredibly simple in its patterning and construction. Both the tunica and the stola consist of two rectangles of fabric, cut to the length of the wearer from shoulder to floor, sewn up the sides. The width of the fabric can vary greatly, but must be at least as wide as the wearer’s hips. These garments can then be pinned and fitted to create a variety of styles, using a type of pin called a fibula. The palla is simply a rectangle of fabric with the edges hemmed.
Within the last year I have grown quite fond of the Landsknecht and Kampfrau style of garb. In April of 2018, an event with a German theme – Night on the Rhine – was held in the nearby Barony of Lochmere. I decided to dress with the theme and make myself a Kampfrau dress, gollar, and wulsthaube.
For the dress, I used a pattern that I already owned and was previously used for a 16th Century Italian gown. I simply extended the waistline so that it would come several inches lower, ending at my true waist as opposed to just below my bust.
I then added guards to the bust and the skirt, which was then attached to the bust using rolled pleats.
Lady Margaret Lad is a 14th Century English Noblewoman. I would consider her to be my primary persona, though I often wear clothing from other countries and time periods.
When dressing as a 14th Century Englishwoman, I generally wear a front lacing cotehardie or gothic fitted dress (GFD for short); a belt, of which I have several styles; knee-high socks or stockings with garters; ankle high boots in the 14th century style; and a head covering of some sort.
I also have a variety of accessories that I like to wear. Accessories can really enhance the overall look of garb and are usually come at a nominal investment – I highly recommend them! Typically, I wear a variety of rings that are reproductions of pieces found in the 13th-14th centuries. I also have several annular and penannular brooches that I wear pinned to the chest/shoulder area of my gowns. For my belt, I like to wear a rosary or paternoster, which are found worn in illuminated manuscripts of that time period. I also have several bags that I carry so that I can hide my modern necessities 🙂
In regards to the picture above, I do want to note that tucking the ends of a dress into a belt in such a way is NOT a period fashion. Typically the dress is pulled up from the waist, with the excess fabric hanging over the belt. The next time I wear my dress in such a way, I will take a photograph to post here as an example.
Patterning a GFD
The gothic fitted dress is typically meant to be self supporting, which means that the wearer does not need any type of supportive undergarments for the top half of the dress. In order to achieve this look, patterns need to be custom-fitted to the individual. I have had the great fortune to attend several workshops in Northern Atlantia where custom fittings have taken place, and the principles of which have also been taught, by Dame Emma West and Mistress Drea di’ Pellegrini. As a result, I not only have my own custom pattern for this style of dress, but I can fit others as well.
I have offered fittings in the past at events and hope to do so again in the future.
In the meantime, here are a list of resources for patterning and making a gothic fitted dress that may be helpful:
Embroidery is one of my favorite A&S activities within the Society and I honestly wish that I had more time to commit to making and finishing projects. I have many half-completed projects and ideas for others – I only hope that I live long enough to see them through!
An Embroidered Pillow in Black & Gold
This pillow was embroidered based on my interpretation of a period style found in 15th century Spain.
The style of embroidery is a counted blackwork, though gold floss was used. Blackwork is typically seen on garments in England from the time of Henry VIII, however the term “Spanish work” was also applied to this same style. The belief became that Catherine of Aragon brought blackwork garments with her from Spain to England. The pattern created for this pillow was inspired by a portrait, believed to be of Catherine of Aragon herself, painted by the Spanish artist Juan de Flandes in approximately 1496.
For the pillow’s materials, I used Zweigart brand Belfast 32 count 100% linen and Au Ver A Soie brand silk embroidery floss for the pillow’s exterior case. The body of the pillow consists of a linen interior case stuffed with goose down. The case of the pillow was then sewn closed using a whip stitch in a cotton thread.
This was my first entry in an A&S competition. The embroidered design on this pillow was my second project to use blackwork or any kind of counted thread embroidery. I was very pleased with how it turned out and I’m proud to say that it won the Best Novice in the A&S competition at the Spanish Inquisition – Torquemada’s Trans-Iberian Tour event on January 21, 2017.
After winning the Best Novice entry, I was honored to be selected as the Baronial A&S Champion for the Barony of Ponte Alto. I then entered the pillow again at the Baronial A&S Champions competition at Kingdom A&S Festival in 2017.
A Blackwork Napkin
I first learned the technique of blackwork during an Atlantian University, at a class taught by Lord Robert Shockley of Avonsford. I immediately fell in love with counted thread embroidery, as it appealed to my love of symmetry and evenness. My first blackwork project – a gift for a friend that has yet to be gifted! – was a napkin with a hem-stitched edge and blackwork motifs decorating its corners. I still have additional motifs that I would like to add, so – for now – it remains in progress.
I love to hem stitch the edges of any embroidery project the requires a clean finish. This is one of my favorite embroidery techniques and I find it to be particularly calming & meditative due to its simplicity.
Another of my favorite counted thread techniques is brickstitch. I learned this technique for a project that was never completed and, most likely, never will be. But I do hope to start a new project in order to practice this technique some more – I’m thinking, a German pouch? To be determined!
One of my first, big embroidery projects was to make a simple dress with very elaborate embroidery – inspired by the Norman garb of the 12th Century.
My version of this garb was much simplified – made with Appleton’s crewel wool on linen, in a combination of chain and stem stitch. I also used a blanket stitch around the border of the neck and sleeves.
To transfer the design to the linen, I traced the motif onto Strathmore Tracing Paper and darkened the lines with a black sharpie. I then taped the paper with the outlined design to a window on a sunny day, then taped the linen over top of the paper. The light shining through the window allowed me to see the black lines on the paper through the light green linen, and then, in turn, trace those lines onto the linen with the Wrights 8823005 Water Soluble Marking Pen in blue. I find this pen to be wonderful for embroidery projects as the markings disappear as soon as you add water.
Another unfinished project! I began recreating the Large Masks motif from the burial at Bjerringhøj, in Mammen parish, Middelsom herred, in northern Denmark. The finished product was meant to be an embroidered bank for a Viking hat, but it never quite made it that far.
The embroidery was done with Au Ver A Soie brand silk embroidery floss on inherited fabric – I was told it was a silk blend, but that may or may not be correct.
I traced the technical drawing (above) on to the fabric using a light box.
A Lady’s Favor
A quick project, gifted to a fighter as a favor for a heavy tournament in early 2017. The motif is my first badge registered with the Society: Argent, a tree blasted sable and in chief a mullet of seven points purpure.
I traced the design using my computer screen – haha! Like I said, it was done quickly 🙂
The embroidery was done in satin stitch with DMC floss on white linen.
The edge of the linen was finished with a machine. Since it was meant to be worn on the fighting field, I didn’t want to spend too much time fancying up something that was likely to end up torn and dirty!
I have a tendency to dabble in a variety of A&S activities within the SCA and leather working is one of those areas. As an archer, I’ve found a need to work with leather in order to make quivers, bracers, and other shooting accessories. Luckily, I have friends like Lord Stephan Grimm and Baron Colum Maxwell in the Barony of Stierbach who, not only have all the tools needed to work with leather, but are willing & able to teach!
This project was completed in one weekend spent at Baron Colum’s house. I picked out an empty glass container and His Excellency then showed me how to shape the leather to the vessel. I then embellished the leather with stamping, carving, and painting techniques in order to personalize it. This was my first leather working project and I’m very proud of how it turned out.
A Quiver for Pennsic
For my first Pennsic, I needed a quiver! Up until that point I had been borrowing quivers or using ground quivers while I shot, but I knew that was not sustainable. In the summer of 2015, Lord Cameron de Grey held a quiver making workshop at his home and I was able to make a very basic back quiver.
My back quiver has seen quite a bit of use since my first Pennsic in 2015 and I’m ready to make a new one, in addition to a new crossbow quiver. Progress pictures to be posted here!