Monday, February 12, 2018

A quick short cape for Carnivale

One of my co-workers wanted to come with me to Venice. I told her, if she came, I would make her a quick cape or surcote - something that wasn't very difficult to put together but would look carnivalish. We bought 2 meters of poly/rayon white moire and 6 meters of orange cotton trim. She wanted orange because her mask is orange. :-)

The cape itself is pretty simple. I did a basic circle cape with a rectangle for the hood that was then gathered in the 18th C style. Really, since she wanted a short cape, I drew out the circle from the center of the fold of the fabric to 32", using my marker and my measuring table like a compass. Once it was cut out, I cut a small circle at the neckline area to give it a neckline and I cut the front opening because the fabric was a huge circle of fabric. With the leftover piece of fabric, I cut out a long enough rectangle to fit over the head. I think it was about 19" by 23" just so I'd have enough of a seam allowance. With the hood, I sewed one long side of the rectangle first by rolling the fabric over a couple of times so that the edges would be enclosed by I could get a ribbon through it. I put the ribbon through, gathering a lot of the material towards the middle but leaving the last 3" on either side ungathered. I then sewed up these 3~4" so there is just a small hole in the back where all the fabric is gathered. I then stitched the front so there were no raw edges as well.

I pleated the hood to the neckline and used some of the leftover fabric from around where the cape was cut as bias tape for the neckline. Again, no raw edges showing. I then hemmed the rest of the cape and added the orange trim. I had just enough to go down the front and along the hem line. I was hoping to have enough for the hood as well but, eh, whatever. She was very pleased with her little cape. :-)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

1510s/Early 1520's Venetian gown with velvet sleeves

First, a few of the inspiration images:
Lucrezia di Baccio del Fede, the Artist's Wife - Andrea del Sarto, 1513

1510's Photo Taken in Padua

The volumonous sleeve that tapered to the wrist was common in both the Venice and Florentine regions. The sleeve is so easy to make as well. I love making them - seriously, the ones in the pictures below took maybe 25 minutes from cut to sewing up on the machine to handsewing the cuff. I like the idea of having sleeves that I can change or even take off completely - particularly in the summer when it can be cool in the morning and burning in the afternoon.

At this point, the bodice waistline is still pretty high. This makes it easy to change out the style with just some sleeve changes and maybe a few other accessories. Add an overdress and it's 20 years earlier. Add gauntles instead and an apron front and back, it's 10 year earlier. The high waistline style is also pretty easy to make and it looks pretty decent as well.

I'll eventually add additional ties to the back but this gown is out of strawberry pink brocade. I got it from either Pennsic or Fabricmart, I'm not too sure. I made gown for 12th Night and didn't have enough scraps yet to make sleeves. A day or two ago, the fabric I ordered from SyFabrics came in. I ordered an assorted lot of cotton velvet with the idea of either trims or sleeves depending on the pieces. Some of the pieces were actually surprisingly large - as in 3 yards! The sleeves came from a little under a yard piece that was 60" wide, I believe.

Pattern: For the dress, I used the McCall's pattern as a base.

I only used the bodice back and front. To make it more accurate, I drafted out the darts and then lifted the front of the dress because ummm...the neckline of the original is super low. Because I originally cut out a much larger pattern size than I am now, I also resized the pattern down. I ended up having to cut a few inches off but, eh, at least I didn't have to figure out the whole underarm drawing thing because I really, truly suck at that when it comes to drafting your own patterns.

The sleeves are my own pattern, however. Really, it's a super simple design. I made a trapezoid that looked like it swallowed a pomegranate.

I apologize for my poor paint skills. I started with a basic trapezoid - the length is the length of your arm from your wrist to the shoulder joint. The wrist length is actually the circumference of the widest part of your hand plus at least an inch for seam allowance and some movement. Typically, this is the base of the thumb part of your hand. The top of the sleeve is the measurement of the bicep area right around to the armpit. Once the trapezoid was drawn, I just "ballooned" the trapezoid from the 3/4 length area of a normal sleeve to the top of the sleeve. In order to make sure both sides were cut exactly the same, I cut one side first, folded the cut side over, and then cut along the same line.

This is what I wore to Venice for Carnival. :-)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 5! Easy patterns and other useful info.

Below is a list of various patterns online for free. Many of these are pretty easy to cut if you can cut out squares, rectangles, and something close to triangle. Medieval clothing was not always complicated. A basic tunic with a belt really does work for a wide variety of periods - it's the way the neckline is done and the trims or embroidery that change.

A classic and very good pattern.  I still use a similar pattern for my chemises.   
Still one of the best patterns out there.   Just input your measurements and you'll get a fabulous pattern for your own smock or t-tunic!
Another fabulous Italian chemise pattern.  Really, if you use wide enough widths, you don't need the side gores.
This one is a classic and still the way I make a-line tunics.  This is perfect for a lot of different periods without only slight variations on the neckline, sleeve width, and length.

Pretty much anything from Elizabethan Costume will be good and fabulous.   If you are at all into the Elizabethan era, USE her website.  

The sempstress used to be a fabulous website.  If you go to the archive page, click on any of the hats.  The links will take you to the patterns for the various 16th C styled hats.
Very basic but still quite good tutorial on how to make fabric covered buttons.  
The sideless surcote is one of my favorite patterns.  It's simple, it looks good, and it works for a wide variety of people.   I like making these for my "morning robe" at Pennsic.  This way, I wear this over a shift in the morning to get coffee and breakfast and don't have to get gowned up right away.  Also, it looks vaguely correct enough that no one questions it.  :-)  As to why I don't get gowned up right away - trying to do the laces without coffee is not recommended.  Ever.
This is the ultimate guide to the seam lines of a large variety of extant tunics.  If you are someone with intermediate skills or better, this is the page you want for historically accurate seam lines.  
I made this up as a pattern for a basic Turkish style coat what feels like a million years ago.  It still works although the seam lines are exactly correct.  
The ultimate guide to a Norse dress.  Lots of archeology as well as patterns.  If you have even a passing interest in Norse, this is an excellent read. 
Go to the tutorials on the website for some pretty good ideas on how to get a fitted gown.  Although it's older, it will still get you a decent pattern.
There are actually a lot of patterns and articles up but I have used the Houppeland pattern before.  Another excellent resource.

Fabric Stores

A few months ago, I created a list of fabric stores online that I'm familiar with. The list is located here. I typically use fabricmart anymore because they are still a "small" company with good prices. Their sales are amazing. I say "small" as in they aren't owned by Amazon or China. :-)

My biggest suggestion to anyone starting out with garbing is use plain fabrics.  I know the damask is pretty or the brocade but nothing screams modern like the wrong design.   You'll be a lot happier in the long term with a plain, single color silk than that pretty floral but completely 20th Century looking brocade.

Use trims!  Embroider!   Trims can be changed out if you don't like them later.  Just use woven trims - a lot of 1970's trims look more "correct" than some of our modern trims.  Just don't use fringe of any kind and you'll probably be okay. 

I hope all this information through this series of posts has been helpful.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 4! Orange, Green, Brown, Pink and Purple!

I was thinking of splitting up these colors and doing a separate post just on pink and purple because of the mythology regarding those two colors.  It's really just sad how many people believe that purple was only worn by royalty and that pink isn't a period color.  The truth is that a specific dye to make purple was only allowed to be worn by a select few in England in the later Renaissance and that the word pink didn't come about to mean a specific color until after the SCA period.  They had pink, they just called it light red. 

Orange, green, and brown were all very, very common colors in the middle ages and renaissance.  Of course, most people are familiar with Sherwood Green thanks to a well beloved outlaw. The part most don't understand is how bright green could be.  As you will see lime green, safety cone orange, and every shade of brown you can imagine are perfectly period correct.

Orange: So safety cone orange. Orange is pretty easy to get with madder and saffron mixed together. I've also seen wool dyed with yellow onion skins turn pumpkin. Really, there are multiple ways to get orange depending on what dyes you have available.

Detail from The Luttrell Psalter, British Library Add MS 42130 (medieval manuscript,1325-1340), f54r

I love the above little guy. He has a lovely bright orange lining on his lavender garment (a color we'll come to in a bit) and green shoes!  He's colorful and, being an archer and lacking any ornamentations, he's not rich.  He's just a regular peasant and yet, he has access to some fabulous colors. 

The Marriage of the Virgin 1490 Luca Signorelli
I took the above photo myself in DC.  The orange you see is really quite...bright.  I'll cover the pinkish mauves and the vibrant greens as well soon.

1410 - The Book of the Queen - the Duke of True Love - by Master of the Cite Des Dames
In this one, we can see pretty much every color so you know that orange is a vibrant, safety cone, orange.  In the doorway, there is a blond guy with a red collar.  We also have the guy wearing primary color blue and the guy with the grey hat wearing a soft burgundy.  The tablecloth is a lovely green.  And then we have mister black and orange.   Very bright, can't miss it, orange.

Now, there are faded oranges and other associated orange colors.  In the previous post, I showed the madder dyed wool that was an orangy red.   However, with this, I want to show that bright, vibrant colors are not unknown.   If you want to wear safety cone orange, go for it!


Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia's Bible part V: 20/66 (14th c)

I love this manuscript for a variety of reasons.  One, the bubblegum pink - a color I'll come to in a bit.  However, the color I'd like to focus on bright lime green.  Yes, the faces look a little green but that's because of the oxidation of the copper that, originally, made the faces glow with a slight golden hue.   The lime green can be achieved using a slight bit of either woad or indigo and safflower or saffron.   In fact, before oxidation, indigo dyes fabric lime green.   When I showed the above image to my class a Pennsic, one guy's eyes nearly popped out of his head.  If the colors aren't ridiculously late 1980's bright to you, adjust your monitor.

Adoration of the Shepherds,  San Vicente, Juan Vicente Macip (Juan de Juanes),  1525-30, Museo Diocesano de Segorbe, Castellón 
I love showing the shepherds because they weren't rich. If they are wearing the color, then pretty much anyone with a half way decent pay rate could afford it. Yes, in some paintings, they might be in their Sunday best but this is about what different stations could afford, not when they might wear it.

I have heard a myth about the green dye that I thought was odd the moment I heard it. According to the myth, green was not possible in itself without mixing weld and indigo or some other yellow and blue dye together. While it is possible - and was done to get Sherwood or Lincoln Green - my immediate reaction, upon hearing it was "Did the person that state this never mow their yard?" Anyone who has worked outside every knows one thing very quickly - grass stains are a nice yellow-green color and they are ridiculously hard to get out.  Also, foxglove which is native to Europe, produces a green dye bath. Verdigris which is oxidized copper was also used to make green dye. Basically, there are a ton of ways to get green dye naturally.
British Library MS Harley 4961, Late 11th/Early 12th C

The guy juggling is wearing a fabulous green cape and a lovely purple tunic.  If you look closely, you can also see he has red embroidery around the cuffs of his undertunic. 


Brown occurs naturally with wool.  There are brown sheep.  Leather is typically brown once it's been tanned.  

Breed of sheep that has been around since the 12th C
Walnut and acorn can be used to dye things brown as well as many, many other things.   However, despite all that, brown just wasn't all that popular of a color.  Reds, blues, greens - pretty much every single other color will pop up long before brown.  Now, there could be a couple of reasons for this: the paintings and manuscripts we have are almost always of people trying to look their best and brown wouldn't be your Sunday best for the most part.  The other reason is that people in the middle ages and Renaissance just found it boring.

Now, that's not to say there aren't any browns in period artwork - there are- but it's just not a popular color.  Red is far more common - and studies on medieval textiles bare this out.   In a study, almost two thirds of the medieval textiles tested were positive for madder.  Given that, I'm going with that medieval people just found brown boring.

 Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, apse fresco work of Andrea De Litio, Annunciation

Paris, BnF, MS fr. 5054. In father's hands Paris, 1485.
Valerius Maximus. Facta et Dicta Memorabilia. MS Harley 4375, fol. 179; French c. 1475. British Library, London. 

Pink: We've all heard the myth: Pink is not period. I always giggled at the idea until someone actually posted that pink wasn't period and ranted about ladies wearing it to the Renn Faire of all places. A few of us started showing her period artwork to which the lady responded "that's just because it's so old and the sun faded it. They really didn't have pink!" ....Why she couldn't get it through her head that if the sun faded the red to pink, they could have achieved that in period is still a bit beyond me. However, we then inundated her with at least 50 images of period artwork showing both pink and red together. Only after that did she relent.

Pink can be faded red. Linen dyed with boiled, acidic safflower can be bright, bubblegum pink. Really, it can be quite pink even with silk.  Of course, berries will also dye fibers various shades on pink.

Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia's Bible  1390s
1401-1500 Ms-5070 réserve Folio 25v

1401-1500 Ms-5070 réserve Folio 84r

Purple: Okay, the most common myth: Purple was reserved for royalty. The origin of this myth is from the Henrican and Elizabethan sumptuary laws. The actual text of the law is this:

None shall weare in his apparell any{ Silke of the colour of purpure.—Cloth of {golde, Tissue.—}But onlye the —{Kyng— Quene} {Kinges {Mother. Chyldren. Brethré & Sisters. Uncles & Auntes}and Except {Dukes & Marquesses, to be may weare in dublets and sleevelesse cotes, Cloth of Gold, of Tissue, not exceadyng. v. if. the yarde, and Purpure in mantelles of the Garter.

So what is purpure?  It's a very specific dye, also known as Tyrian Purple. It's made from snails blood. The dye itself could give the range from purple to red - it mostly came out as a maroon based on ancient and medieval paintings. It's the dye that is restricted, not the color. This is very important to understand. Purple and violet are considered two separate colors in the middle ages. We use them interchangeable today. You could, absolutely, overdye a madder garment with woad - and, as mentioned previous, this was done. Purple itself is not restricted, purpure or Tyrian Purple dye is. Also, this law only deals with England - different countries and areas of Europe had different rules.

Another, very popular source, for purple dye were the lichen dyes. There are several examples of lichen dyes which get a very grape-y purple. Several people have dyed with them in this modern age because you get a fabulous bright purple. The dye was used from at least the 9th century. There is some evidence that it was being used as early as the classical age.

Roman de la Rose, MS M.245 fol. 2v 
The above shows an older, clearly poorer woman wearing...lavender.  You can see the full page here that is comes from.  I've already posted a few images with lavender.  This one, the lady with holes and tears in her dress, shows that she's poor.  This busts the "purple is for royalty" myth.  Although, some might argue "well, she's not wearing purple purple!"
Tacuinum Sanitatis; early 15th Century Italian 
And the lady is wearing...purple!   
Image from an italian breviary,c. 1380
Very, very purple.  And the lady wearing purple above is not a queen.  She may be nobility, but not royalty.   

So wear purple!  Wear pretty much any color you please!  I've personally seen teals, pastels, and all sorts of crazy colors in artwork throughout the middle ages and Renaissance.  

If you'd like further information on natural dyes, I highly suggest this list. It goes by color and the dyes that can achieve that color. Not all are period correct for the SCA but enough are that it's an invaluable resource. You'll hear a lot about mordants if you do any natural dying. For alum, you can buy that at the store pretty cheaply. I used to get it from my local "Amish" market in the spices area. For iron, which was a popular mordant, just wait a couple of days for your SOS pad you use for cleaning pots to rust. It works beautifully. Different mordants will get you very different colors.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.  The next and last section will be on free patterns for SCA garments available online.  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 3! Primary Colors!

My own yarn that I dyed with Safflower on the left, madder on the right.  The middle one was a mix.  


Madder. Almost every single cultural group throughout the middle ages and Renaissance had access to madder. It's really the most common dye because it will grow pretty much anywhere.   It has a decent shelf life of about a year but, the fresher it is, the better and more "red" the color will be.  In the picture of my own dyeing attempts, the madder was getting towards the end of it's shelf life.  Still, I got some pretty nice orangy reds out of it, as you can see.
Early 13th Century Extant Pellote

14th Century Illumination

15th Century Illumination

Yellow: As mentioned in the previous post, the Irish loved saffron dyed (or safflower dyed) lienes. In the image above, I've used safflower. Weld also can be used and I have some weld dyed yarn. Weld tends to be "sunnier" yellows while safflower (And saffron) are more "lemony" yellows. Both can be quite bright. I have seen, in person, neon yellow from saffron. My own silk dress, dyed in safflower, is one shade removed from neon yellow. We are talking BRIGHT colors.

Codex Bodmer 1170-1200
14th Century Illumination

Jean Clouet (1485 -1541, French)
Blue: Indigo and woad were both prevalent throughout the middle ages. A study recently done on one of the first settlers of Iceland shows that her apron dress was dyed with Indigo. She passed away between 700-1100 A.D. There is a pretty good article on the Indigo and Woad already but there are a couple of details that need to be explored.

In the 15th and 16th C, when the ways to the east were opening up for Europe thanks to exploration and improved sea travel, indigo started to take over from the woad trade. Indigo is super easy to use and doesn't require quite the years of work that woad does. Many governments in Europe felt that indigo would cause woad to become extinct and cost woad dyers (and woad growers) to go out of business. To protect the interests of the woad dyers, some governments in Europe outlawed Indigo.

This tells us a couple of things - a) Indigo was pretty cheap in the later SCA period and b) you couldn't really tell the difference between woad dyed and indigo dyed. It's just the dyes stuff that is illegal, not the color. This is very important in the next post with purple.

2nd Quarter of the 14th Century
15th Century

13th Century

With these colors, you have...primary colors! In kindergarten, we should have all learned about the color wheel.
Taken from Color wheel artist

All you need is red, yellow, and blue to make up every single other color. Medieval people knew this, too! There has been scientific studies showing that madder was overdyed with a blue dye (woad or indigo) to get purple. This is based on testing of textiles from the mid 14th C. So, the idea that "well, that color didn't exist" isn't accurate. Some colors would be more common than others (madder red was very common) but very few colors were impossible to get the middle ages.  Seriously, as you'll see in the next post, safety cone orange is totally a medieval color.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 2! The Monochrome-ish addition!

Today, I want to tackle two myths at once: Our ancestors in the middle ages didn't have "real" white, it was more a natural cream color and Black was only for the rich because the dye was expensive/expensive to keep the fabric dyed, etc.


What the women are doing in the above image is washing the linen garments in a lye mixture and laying them out in the sun to dry. As the linked experiment by another individual shows, lye does an amazing job at bleaching. Also, using urine was well known to bleach things (the ammonia in it which we still use today) since the Classical Era. Catullus, the famous Roman poet, even wrote a scathing poem about it to a Egnatius. Although a lot of Roman technology was lost in the Fall of Rome around the 5th C, the use of urine for bleach wasn't one of them.

So with different types of bleach available, those living in Europe in the middle ages and Renaissance could very easily get their linen pretty darn white.

An important thing to keep in mind, all chemises, undies, and bras were normally bleached white. The one exception to this is the Irish Leine which is bright, bright yellow. There is some argument to whether the leine itself is a tunic or an undershirt but there is no argument over that it was yellow - a color we'll get to later.


The myth I've heard way, way too often is that Black was an expensive dye and it was difficult to keep clothing black because it fades as you wash it.

So, there are three things wrong with this. First in a list of 16 dyes black comes in at the 11th most expensive. So there goes that. In fact, there are several different ways to get a decent black dye to include walnut shells or acorns and alum.

However, you don't even need to dye wool black. Wool, being the most common fabric of the SCA period.

Meet my brother

Why people forget about natural black wool is completely beyond me. Did they not learn "ba ba black sheep?" in kindergarten? Do they not have a "black sheep" in the family? The term black sheep is so ubiquitous in Western Culture that is just seems obvious to me that they had to have black wool in the middle ages. After all, it's not like black sheep suddenly appeared in the early 18th Century with the nursery rhyme.

BNF Fr. 9, fol. 32v beginning of the 15th century

They may not have been as common as white wool sheep but black sheep were not unknown either. I've been to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival - the wool can be pitch black. Yes, some may be sun dyed a bit but, really, you cut off the ends and have the super dark undercoat to spin up into black wool.

Also, even in the Greenland dig, mentioned earlier, most of the garments are made with white and black wool - just one is the weft and the other is the warp- to create neat patterns. They didn't have much, if any, natural dyes around in Greenland so they just used what they had which were the natural wool colors.

So, the third problem with the myth regarding the color black - that is somehow isn't colorfast for washing. Well, they didn't wash the outergarments, like dresses or doublets, as much as we do today. The chemise was meant to protect your clothing from you and you washed the chemise a lot (from one primary source reading, twice a week!). Think of the outfits of the medieval world like we would think of a coat or jacket today. You might wash it a couple of times a year but that's probably about it. Most people aren't stuffing their wool coat into the washer every week and neither did those living in the middle ages send their outfits to be washed often. Mostly, some spot cleaning is all that is needed.

Even if you have the dyed black rather than the natural black wool, you won't be washing it often so colorfast isn't quite a worry as the myth would lead you to believe.

Next, will be on Red, Yellow, and Blue!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Everything you needed to know about SCA garbing, you learned in kindergarten.

At Storvik Novice and at Pennsic I taught a pretty well received class about the basics of garbing. It's just a general overview explaining away some very common myths regarding the types of fabric and colors that were available during the SCA period. Really, although I called it Garbing 101, it's more a "You learned this in kindergarten!" type class.

I meant to post this months ago but in between the international move and Grad School, pretty much nothing else in my life has gotten done. :-) So here is the first topic....

Fabrics in the Middle Ages

·         Linen
o   Daily Life in the Middle Ages By Paul B. Newman – Linen is grown pretty much everywhere in Europe.  It’s used in almost everything in the middle ages as well.  Think of linen as we think of cotton today – it makes everything.
·         Wool
o   Norse Clothing Patterns: Reconstructions of Viking Garments from Greenland Hardcover – 31 Dec 2009  by Else Ostergard (Author), Anna Norgard (Author), Lilli Fransen  - The extant Norse clothing is fascinating due to its preservation but also most of the garments are made of wool from sheep shepherded by those living in Greenland. 
·         Silk
o   Mostly upper class but not exclusively.  Even most of the lower classes could afford a bit of silk trim – particularly from an older garment. 
·         Cotton

o   Mythbuster: Not as rare as many people are lead to believe!  There is already an excellent article at on how period cotton is and who had access to it.  

The above is a handy dandy quick chart to the fabrics of the middle ages. Linen really was used in EVERYTHING. Not only were hats and underwear made of linen, but so were linings to garments and even garments themselves. We still have linen prints from pretty much every era and rather intricate designs. If they printed it, you can bet they wore it out. In fact, in one of the 16th Century Modas one of the Italian City State peasant dresses is said to be made in Linen if they must - meaning linen wasn't a choice material but it was done to make outfits. I say this because there is a myth stating that linen wasn't really used for clothing other than undies and we use it in the SCA out of necessity. We do have some tailor's records that suggest that linen was used by the upper class as well. There is one record from about 1405, I believe, that describes a linen gown...but it's one out of many, many gowns being described and the only linen gown on the record. So it wasn't a fabric of choice but it was a fabric that could be used. In other words, it was the cotton knit of the middle ages and, just like we use cotton knit really wouldn't wear your t-shirt to a ball or any formal event.

Wool.  I LOVE using wool.   The myth with wool is that it's warm and thick and unusable in the warmer climates. This is so blatantly false, it's not even funny.   One of my favorite gowns now, shown poorly below, is made of wool I dyed in indigo.

I had it on display at Pennsic 45 (2016) and people would stare at me in shock when I told them it was wool.  They'd finger it, trying to figure out if it could be anything else because it's super thin.  Tropical weight wool is like that.  Even those that know about tropical weight wool believe it's too hard to find...which isn't true.  Most suiting weight is light enough to use for SCA purposes.   The problem really is that it comes in boring colors.  However, you can dye absolutely anything black and we'll get to colors in the next post. 

The Greenland digs, mentioned in the chart above are an AMAZING resource. No matter what time period you might be interested in the digs of the 13th/14th C garments really help to understand garment construction overall for most of the middle ages.  Most of the garments (maybe all?) are made of  wool.  Of course, most people will argue it's Greenland so, of course they need wool!  It's cold!

However, there are garments of Italian Saints that are extant and made of wool. It might get cold here in Italy in the winter but it's anything but in the summer. There are also more than enough records showing wool was used throughout Europe and pretty much was the cotton twill of it's day.

Silk is an easy one because there aren't any myths about it to my knowledge.  Everyone had access to silk. The Norse had silk. The Turks had silk. The Italians had silkworms. Of course, it was expensive so a peasant might have a bit of silk trim on their best garment and nothing else of silk but it was available to everyone.

Cotton is the funny one. The myth is that cotton was too expensive in period which is....just not true. It comes from a rumor that Queen Elizabeth I of England stated that a cotton chemise, given to her by a prospective marriage partner in Spain, was simply too dear (expensive) and she dared not wear it. Now, if this is true, you have to understand some of the underlying politics and relations of the time. Depending on who sent it to her, it could have been her former brother in law or it could have been one of his kids. Either way, a former brother in law or one of his kids sending you what is essentially lingerie? CREEPY!!

So, Queen Elizabeth has a choice. She can embrace the creepiness which She can laugh in their face and tell her former brother in law or his kid that they are total perv...which would start a war with Spain Or, she can simply say thank you politely, say it's very thoughtful, and have it taken to some back room where it will never see the light of day again. She took option three.

Another problem with this myth - it only deals with England! Clearly, if Spain gave the chemise to Elizabeth, cotton was a thing in Spain. The link in the table above,, really is an excellent article that goes well into the cotton issue. I highly suggest it. Yes, modern cotton is different because of our modern (cotton gin!) manufacturing processes but you can find some cotton that looks rather period correct. Personally, if the cut is correct, I'm not concerned about if it's the "correct" type of cotton or not.

EDIT:  Eva has also written an article on cotton in the middle ages - mostly focused on the domestic European production of it

With that, I wish you all a Happy New Year! The next post will start my posts on colors in the SCA period and the various myths associated with them.