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.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Pinterest found recipe: Ham and Potato Soup

Sorry for the sideway photo!  I took it with my phone.  Anyway, I baked a ham on Saturday.  Ham is ridiculously cheap at the Commissary (a little over $7 for a 4lb ham!) right now.  Since I've discovered I like cooking one big meal a week and then using that to make "leftover" meals, getting ham and thinking of all the wonderful dishes like fried ham or ham and potato soup sounded like a very good idea. 

However, I needed a recipe for ham and potato soup since I hadn't made it before.  I found this one on pinterest and, oh my goodness, it's creamy deliciousness!   I didn't modify it much (I added salt and didn't add the red pepper; also used about half the amount of cheese, pre shredded) because I was curious how it would turn out.  It's basically taking a bunch of leftovers and throwing them into a pot.  It's super simple to make and who doesn't like a big bowl of soup or stew in winter?

So, now I have ham and potato soup for the next few days and I also have a couple more slices of ham to fry up.  :-)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

In Real Life!

I've been visiting Padua a lot because OH MY GOODNESS! is there medieval and Renaissance artwork everywhere.  Plus, I'm a huge fan of Saint Anthony. :-)

So, recently, I went to the School of Saint Anthony, right next to the Basilica.  There, I saw some paintings that I have only ever seen thumbnails of and really started to understand a lot of the early 16th C dress in Veneto (Venice/Padua/Vicenza/Verona) much, much better.

First, the lady whose baby fell into the boiling pot - the story goes that the baby fell in and was miraculously brought back to live by Saint Anthony.  It's sadly one of those things that still happens today - you turn away for one second and the toddler has poured the soup pan on themselves or pulled the iron down on their head.   The panel where the woman has the red sleeves and the shaw depicts just that.  She's a bit away while the baby falls in.

In the second panel, she's showing the perfectly healed baby off to the Saint and others.  The neat thing about these two panels is she's wearing the same dress so it's nice to see both with sleeves and not.  I also love the red hem, how the skirt bellows a bit in the back, and that coif!   

The hem on this dress is a lovely red trim and the dress is green in person, not gray.  Yet, it doesn't look like a Christmas tree either.  I love seeing the open wide sleeves and the back of the dress!

I've been trying to figure this one out and, it's so different, I'm still not sure all of what is going on.  It looks like a lavender bodice with an orange sari for the skirt and false lower sleeves.  It appears to be going off the older style of the upper and lower gauntlets that were popular about 20 years earlier.  There were so many details in this that I wanted to capture - the scales on the skirt and the black star pattern I think, show, the pallu of the sari and the rest of the sari.  The lower sleeves appear to be made out of the rest of the sari. 

For those not familiar with saris, they are worn mostly in India and neighboring countries.  They tend to be about 5 or 6 yards long - making them excellent for costuming.  The saris have typically three sections - the first yard of the sari is for making the blouse piece, the next three to four yards are the skirt, and the last yard or so is the pallu.

Pallu is an Indo-European word (Palla in Latin!) that means decorated/embroidered piece of women's clothing.  That's all the pallu is - it's the heavily decorated part of the sari that gets draped over the shoulder.  Because the sari is normally cotton or silk in period (and often still), they would make it along the Silk Road.   It's not hard to trace a sari to Italy from India and figuring it would be made into a local dress.

The lady appears to have used the pallu and the second part of the sari for her skirt and maybe the blouse pieces for the lower sleeves?  It's hard to tell but I'll go check back on it. :-)

There are so many dresses in these panels!   The red dress with the blue beneath it, the fabulous green/silver skirt and sleeves with the black and orange bodice, the lady in the red dress with her back to us, and the drowned skirt in the bottom panel.  Now, the drowned girl is not wearing just her bodice - it person, it's clearly a lightly greyish skirt and sleeves attached to the green and black striped bodice.  I'll try to get a better picture next time.  

Really, it's fun looking at all this artwork in person and seeing new details.  For more photos, check out my album on Iperntiy.

Decorating For Christmas!

First, my apologies if any of this is odd sounding or misspelled;  the cat fell asleep on my right arm, hugging it.

My Christmas Tree

 As most of you know, I moved to Italy in September. I didn't bring or send any of my Christmas decor from home so I had to buy new stuff.  I'm on a limited budget for the next month (long story but moving is not cheap!) so I went to one of my new favorite thrift stores here in Italy.  There, I bought this  5" faux tree for €15!   Really, once I got it home and fluffed out a lot of the branches, it started to look pretty decent. 

Next, I had to get the lights and the decorations.  I bought the lights at the local five and dime for about as much as the tree cost me.  The nice thing is that the lights have 8 different modes - you can have them fade in and out, blink, chasing, randomly flicker, or be steady as well as a couple of other modes. 

The decorations I had to get creative with.  Although I found some decent ornaments at the thrift store, I also made a few as well.  First up is the very decorative "icicle".  One of my tiaras didn't make it through the move - which is fine.  I can easily get a new one.  However, I saw an idea for reusing old jewelry as decorations and figured I'd take the pieces of the tiara and see what I'd come up with.

I took a thick pink ribbon, ran it through the arches of half of my old tiara, and took one of the pearl drops, adding it to the bottom.   I tied the ribbon off at the top with silver glitter gift wrapping ribbon. Below is what I ended up with:
Recycled Tiara
 Since I doubt many people reading have broken old tiaras lying around, also consider using that one earring you can never find the partner to or other jewelry odds and ends you probably do have about.  I also used two old mardi gras "pearl" necklaces as garlands.  They covered about 2/3s of the tree. 

Behind the stylized icicle, you might notice the white lace.  Like anyone that does historical costuming, I have a lot of trims and fabrics as part of my stash.  The lace is a wide one I use for 18th C undersleeves.   I have yards upon yards of it.  I used it as well as a garland.
 Not the best picture - I'll take a better one later.   I bought 12 paper doilies for 99 cents at the local five and dime as well as some pretty nylon Christmas ribbons.   From the local yarn and trim store, I got a bunch of ribbon roses for €1 which I used in making a few other decorations.

For the snow cone, I cut the doilies into quarters.  I took one of the quarters and put taped the edges together.  I used silver glitter tape because I like glitter tape.  :-)  However, you can also use regular gift wrap tape.   Once the cone is done, I added the lavender christmas ribbon  to the back in a loop to hang it and on the sides as bows.  I had to be careful not to rip through the holes on the sides of the paper.  I also had these very generic cheap "snow ball" ornaments in Styrofoam and used that as a...snowcone.   

Simple Paper Fan
Mom wrapped a few of my items in the financial times.  The FT has always had a very distinctive pink paper.  I straightened out the paper and did the typical fan fold.  I cut the paper in two and then brought out a doily.  I folded the doily so that both edges of the lace were visibly, rather than one on top of the other.  Folding the doily in a fan was a bit difficult, but as long as you pay attention to where the center is, it will come out.  I then cut off the bottom of the doily.  If you cut it off to start with, it might be easier, but I didn't do that so...

Anyway, I then matched the folds of the doily and the pink paper so that the doily covered most of the FT.  I then took my yarn needle, put the lavender Christmas ribbon in it, and punched through the papers for a bow at the bottom but also to keep the papers together.  You can also use a little bit of glue at the edges to keep them together.  I added three of the purple roses for a bit more of pretty.

One of the Thrift Store ornaments

My sad attempt at decorating one of the Styrofoam ornaments
The above looks very silly but gets lost in the rest of the tree pretty easy.  I took some ribbons and wrapped the styrofoam and topped it with a ribbon.  It's pathetic but eh, it's pink!

Silver Star
I bought a door decoration at the five and dime for €1 and, when I took it out of the bag, one of the stars fell off.  Rather than just throw it away, I put a bit of the silver curling ribbon through it and hung it on the tree instead.  The rest of the door decoration looks lovely without it still.  

I hope everyone is having just as much decorating as I am! 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Happy Leftovers Day!

I had a lot of leftovers because I cooked like I was back home and not just for me an a couple of co-workers.  :-)  So, I made Turkey casserole- an old favorite of mine- today out of the turkey and stuffing.

Turkey Casserole
Taken with my camera phone before lunch

What you'll need:

  • 2 cups of stuffing at least - more is better
  • enough turkey pieces to cover the bottom of the casserole dish (roughly under a pound for your average 9"x12" 
  • Cream of mushroom soup

That's it! You pull apart the turkey and cover the bottom of the casserole dish with the turkey. Once that is done, you just pour the cream of mushroom soup over the casserole dish (you might need two cans) and then put the leftover stuffing on top of that. Heat the oven to 350f and put the dish in for about 30 minutes. The dish is done with the stuffing is a nice medium brown (ie crisp!).

If you are like me and can't have the regular campbell's cream of mushroom, don't worry! Here's what I did.

Cream of Mushroom soup recipe

What you'll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • a can of mushrooms (if not using fresh mushrooms at all, get two cans of mushrooms)
  • a pinch of sage
  • salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth (I think? I used half the box I still had in the fridge)
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 small fresh garlic, pressed (1 teaspoon of dried garlic will work as well, just wait to add it until you add the chicken broth)

In your soup/rice/everything that has a lot of volume pot, add the butter. Once it's melted, add the fresh mushrooms and fresh garlic. Once they are browned, add the chicken broth and wait for it to boil. Add the milk next and again, wait for it to boil. Add the canned mushrooms. Leave it on low heat to simmer for a few minutes. Add the sage and any salt you'd like. Once it's simmered for about 10 minutes, add a small amount of the flour and stir it in. Every time you add flour, stir it, and see if it is thickening. This can take a minute or so. Once it starts to thicken, just stir the soup until it's the consistency you are used to seeing with canned soups (slightly more liquid than gravy).

I poured this over the turkey and then patted the stuffing on top of all this. Really, this dish is delicious and a good way to help reuse the leftovers. Also, since you are combining the turkey and the stuffing, it makes room in the fridge!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

And now, I have internet again!

I took this photo of a beautiful example of mid 16th Century Venetian painting on October 29 2017 right outside of Padua.   I'm currently living in Veneto, in Vicenza, which is about halfway between Venice and Verona.  Yes, I'm eating up every minute of it.  I will post a LOT more photos of these paintings I've seen in real life now.  What I love about the one above is the mix of goldwork and blackwork in the outfit.  The chemise has a lot of lovely blackwork but the partlet has a lot of gold work. 

Anyway, I'm back online! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Small Break: Fabric Stores

So, I realized I haven't posted in a while.  Mea culpa.  In between Pennsic (in which I did make a few new dresses and chemises for!), Grad School, and now moving, I've had zero time to post anything here.     Earlier today, I was looking for what I thought I had posted months ago, a list of fabric stores, and couldn't find it.   At least, I can post that  (and then stop procrastinating and continue packing...)

This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you have a favorite fabric store that is not listed and isn't Joanns, then add it to the comments. These are just stores I've dealt with and have some idea of the quality of the fabrics they sell.

[Fabric Guru] has mostly drapery fabrics but some pretty good buys as well.

[Fabric dot com] has all the things. They used to be awesome but Amazon bought them out so now that Steve is no longer in charge, the coupons aren't fast and furious anymore.

[Denver Fabrics]
and [Fashion Fabrics Club] are the same store. Denver fabrics was a privately owned business that got bought out years ago. Unfortunately, I've had a few bad experiences with them (they'll say something is 100% wool and I doubt it even had wool in it!) so be wary.

[Renaissance Fabrics]
is droolable. I love all their fabrics. Of course, they are on the pricey side but it's worth it for a few of their fabrics.

[Syfabrics] is a seller on ebay but also has a website. I've never had a problem with them and love a lot of the fabrics I've gotten.

[B & J fabrics]
probably stands for Broke & Jobless because their fabrics tend to be so $$$ that that's what you'll be. However, they sometimes have some rare fabrics that are impossible to find elsewhere.

[Pure silks] is a great place to go if you need that specific color of silk taffeta. They aren't outrageous in their prices (about $19 a yard on average) but they are shipping from overseas so it can be slow sometimes.

[Dharma Trading]
is one I've used mainly for dyes. I know others have bought fabric from them. I've never heard a complaint.

[Fabric Store] is where you go if you want linen. You do not bother with anywhere else - except Carolina Fabrics who only travel to SCA events.

[Prism Silks] used to be [Golden Silks]. I've bought silk velvet and silk taffeta from them. They are simply fabulous.

[Burnley & Trowbridge] focus mostly on 18th C fabrics. However, a lot of their stuff can be used for almost any era. Price wise, they are pretty comparable to everyone else

[William Booth Draper] is another 18th C specialty store.

[Sartor] focuses on medieval and Renaissance fabrics. I've seen every one of their fabrics in person. You want all of them. Considering the work that goes into some of the reproductions, their prices are pretty reasonable. I bought some of their fabric on special order at Pennsic.

[Fabric Mart] - watch out for their sales! They have daily sales, the as-is fabric (typically, it's a line through the fabric that you can easily work around), and monthly sales.  I've gotten a TON of wool and linen from them for well under $10 a yard.   Sign up for their newsletters!

[Anne George's] is another good one. It's very similar to dharmatrading in terms of the types of items they sell. However, I've bought the natural dyes from here and I LOVE them. Indigo, madder, and safflower dyes are all a lot of fun to play with. They sell wool gauze for a very decent price as well. They are based out of India but I haven't had any issues getting items fairly quickly.

And, of course, there is good ole ebay & etsy.  However, you are taking a chance for the most part with either of those.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lemon Drop Cookies

A few of my co-workers will be leaving our project tomorrow so we are having a mini going away party.  For that, I'm making my Vegan Apple Cinnamon Swirl Bread and Lemon Drop Cookies.  The lemon drop cookies are pretty basic but are oh so good!   The recipe is as follows:


  • 1/2 cup of stick butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups lemon drops (I got mine at the local Amish market but I think you can get them at Wegman's as well)


Preheat oven to 350F. My oven is old and ready to break down, so I preheat the oven to 355F.  

Mix in a large bowl the butter, the white sugar, and the brown sugar until it's blended.  This takes a bit, particularly if the butter isn't softened.  You might want to leave the butter out for a half hour or so just to make it easier to mush with the sugars.   Next is the eggs, the baking soda, the lemon extract,  and the vanilla extract.  Having a bit of both vanilla and lemon really gives the cookies a great taste.   Then add in the salt, lemon drops, and flour. Once this is mixed together, put small spoonfuls of the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. I normally line my cookie sheets with tin foil for easy clean up. Cook for about 15 minutes (check them at 12).   

This ends up making roughly 4 dozen cookies.  :-)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dyeing the natural way :-)

Last year, you may recall, I played around with indigo dye and got some fabulous results:

This year, I wanted to play around with madder and safflower.  I bought a few jars from Fabric Treasury on Etsy and ended up with enough dye to last me for a while.  I wasn't able to get the acidity right for the safflower to turn pink (based upon other blogs it will turn Barbie would be jealous PINK for linen and silk) but the left most yarn in the picture is from the yellow safflower.  It's really a lovely bright yellow.

The yarn I was using is all natural wool yarn. Since I wanted the bit of linen (not shown) I had to turn pink, I added madder to the dye pot and then reduced the acidity, and added another wool skien. All the fabric I used was soaked in alum and water before I dyed it. The middle yarn is the color I got from the safflower plus a bit of madder. It's a really nice peachy tangerine color in person. The last one is just pure madder and I redyed the linen in that as well. The linen came out a rather nice pale rose and will be made into sleeves to go with a brown linen/cotton kirtle. (I LOVE pink and brown together. I don't like brown on it's own but other warm colors on it really make the warm colors pop.)

Because the madder is a bit old and not freshly ground, I wasn't able to get a deep red. However, the orangey red I did get is a pretty solid color. I'm really happy with it. Now, to figure out some natural green dyes they would have used in the middle ages...

Some other tidbits I should mention - to the madder pot, I used just regular old tap water and smashed a calcium pill to get the chalk necessary for "hard" water. I think this really helped to get the best color I could.

I used an old large pot I found at the thrift store for $3 on sale. It's big enough to fit about four yards of a lightweight fabric in. As is, I had no issues with the 1 1/2 yard of linen and a skien of wool. 8

That's the safflower dye pot with a wool skien in it. I did try to get natural wool at the Maryland sheep and wool festival but they wanted $20 a skien. 0_o? So, Etsy it was and I easily found the five I did for $25 - much more reasonable! I don't want them hand spun on a spindle by a spinster! I just want basic undyed wool.

For the failed safflower to turn pink experiment, I used borax and vinegar.  I think I just made it too acidic, the test strips I had for the acid test only went up to 9 and I need to go to a pool store to get a PH reader that will go up to 11 or higher.  You are supposed to get it to 11 PH and then bring it back down to 6 to get a lovely pink.  I have more than enough that I can experiment some more!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Remade Jeans into Jean shorts

This was a really simple sewing project I did the other day.  I haven't owned shorts in ages but see they are coming back into fashion.  I was thinking of just buying a pair but I had a pair of old jeans that I normally use for cutting the grass.  They were getting a wear spot right at the shorts line so...time to cut them up and make shorts!

I added the eyelet trim to the cuffs of the shorts after cutting off the jeans legs.  I also added pieces of indigo cotton above where the wear spots were because the fabric was pretty thin.  I stay stitched these pieces down using an indigo colored thread that you really can't see unless you know what you are looking for.  Even then, it's difficult.   There are a couple of minor holes on the front that I stay stitched and will most likely embroider over later.  

It's a very simple project but I now have shorts for the summer!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How to annoy an archeofashionista quickly!

I just got back from Vegas and wanted to share this....mash up with everyone. This is the quickest way to get an archeofashionista's eye to twitch. What is an archeofashionista? It's someone who is into historical fashions, recreates them, follows the historical fashion circles, and who's eyes bleed when people mix and match fashion eras wrong. Basically, it's most of the people reading this. :-) And yes, it's a term I came up with after seeing this monstrosity.

How can a famous Regency fashion plate be next to a famous Edwardian fashion plate?!? How!?! They cannot exist together!!!!!! *twitch*

These were up in my room at the Venetian and my Mom thought I was being silly getting all upset about this mash up. :-) I mean, some how the SCA doesn't bother me but this does. Probably because, at least in the SCA, everyone knows what time period they are from. People that see this won't realize it's all cut outs of fashion plates from very different eras and areas. ...I might try to find each of the fashion plates later. I'm pretty sure the Regency one is from between 1817-1820....

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New Retro Looking Dress

I bought the fabric for the dress at my local thrift store a couple of years ago. It was clearly vintage - based on the width and the design. I'm pretty sure 1950's. The design is of St. Mark's Square in Venice with Venice written under it. The colors are mostly natural, black, peach, and teal. I knew I wanted to make a retro looking dress with it but only recently decided on a pattern. The fabric itself is perfect for where I'm going this weekend - the Venetian in Vegas. :-)

The Process

I cut out McCall's M6959:

I went with the main dress view which is a nice, simple, wrap dress - or so I hoped. It wasn't. I cut out everything, tried the dress on before wrapping bias tape all around the edges and...the way the front is cut is completely wonky. It fit perfectly at the waist but there is no way in any sort of Universe that the front bodice could fit over even a cup A, let alone my two lumps of fat I have permanently stuck above my lungs. Yes, it has darts, but the way the opening was....that just wasn't going to happen. And the darts? They ended up almost under my arms...despite the waist fitting perfectly. o_0?

The bodice side seams and the skirt seams will not match up. Don't even try. It's not worth it. The shoulders are for a linebacker. I have no idea why anyone would need that much space on their shoulders without using shoulder pads. ....So I recut the back slightly to redo the shoulders and lower the back neckline. The front I had to completely recut. I moved the dart to where it should be, redesigned the front edge so it would cover my chest, and recut the shoulders on the front. Once I had the front edge where I wanted, I added the three packages of black bias tape all around the edges. Add it to the sleeve edge before you fully sew on the sleeve so it has a nice and neat edge.

I also added a ribbon fluffy thing to the front over of the dress. It needed something there. Here are the pictures of the final dress on the dress dummy. If I do the dress again, the only other thing I'd change is to make the waist another another 1" lower.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pajama Bottoms Via Pinterest!

I kept seeing this pattern for free "boudoir" shorts running around pinterest and thought to give it a try. A couple of big important things about this pattern:
  • You have to print it out and piece it together
  • There are no instructions for how to sew it together. You have to buy those

I figured that I've pieced together patterns - including some of my own- before so, eh. Also, I'm a pretty accomplished seamstress at this point. I knew I could figure out the pattern if I bothered to think it through.'s what I ended up with:

New Doctor Who PJ bottoms to go with my Doctor Who t-shirt. :-)

The following are the way I created them. This is not necessarily the way you are supposed to - just the way that made sense to me.

First, I sewed, right sides together, the front and back pieces at the crotch and then added the front "flap" piece to the back side.

I then hemmed the edge of the flat - not a tube yet- leg. I did a roll hem for the Doctor Who ones but whatever works best for you, do it.

Then, once I had two flat leg pieces, I sewed them right sides together at the crotch seam. I then flipped it, folder the "flap" piece over the front. On the pattern for the front is a triangle a few inches away from the center front; I used this as the "marker" for where the back flip should end it's crossover. I then pinned the flaps and stay stitched them. I would recommend at this point, stay stitching down the overlap edge (from the waist to the end of the overlap) as I didn't do this and had to go back and do it.

I then cut out a piece of elastic to my waist measurement and sewed both ends of the elastic together securely. I then matched the elastic with the edge of the PJ bottoms (right side of the fabric) and stretched it to sew along the top of the fabric and the elastic. I then flipped the elastic in and stitched it down along the bottom of elastic.

That's it! I now have a couple pairs of summer PJ bottoms!

They are basically feminine boxers. I would not recommend these as anything other than PJ bottoms - they look a bit like a 1920's granny undies really. Also, I would suggest going down a size and just cutting the back bottom inseam a bit deeper - they are pretty baggy. Not horrible but I'd feel a bit more comfortable a size smaller.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Dress!

I saw the lovely totally acetate cherry blossom brocade at Joanns back in February, I believe, and had to have it. I bought about five yards with the intent to make an Easter dress. I finally decided on a style for said dress in late March and needed some pink organza (silk!) to match the brocade.

My inspiration for making my Easter dress was from this image of a 1950's/early 1960's pattern:

I looked through my own patterns and realized a good dress pattern base is Simplicity 3673. I used style C - which is the wider skirt version of the pattern. I've used this pattern before but that was pre-weight loss. Luckily, the way the pattern is designed, it's only four pieces and very easy to trace the smaller size from the bigger one I cut out.

The bodice, shown above, is what I changed the most. I cut the organza so it would be a cross over style by extending from the center fold over and keeping the armscye where it was. I also made the strap wider for the organza to get a bit of a gather at the shoulder. I cut the bodice under front out of the cherry blossom but also changed the neckline of it slightly so you just get a whisper of it from under the organza.  In the picture, the blue line is mostly the original brocade front bodice pattern and the actual edge is what I used for the organza.

Another change was with the skirt back. There is one picture of the skirt back in the pattern with only two darts and others with three. The pattern piece calls for three but with three darts on each side in the back, the skirt will not match up to the bodice back at the side seams. The bodice back isn't supposed to be gathered. So, to make it fit, I took out the middle of the three back darts and it works perfectly.

Overall, I love my new dress and I even got compliments on it at Church. :-)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shepherd's Hut Updates!

As some of you know, I love talking about shepherd's huts. They are one of my favorite topics in the SCA, partly because NO ONE else talks about them and therefore, no one else knows about them. :-) The bigger reason is that I love the idea of having a "tiny house" that is period correct for SCA events. The set up is easy. I drop the trailer and...that's it. The only stuff I really take out of the trailer to "set up" are the shepherd's hooks for all the lanterns around my campsite. Everything else is done. I can - and have- crawl right into bed immediately after landing at a site and go to sleep. I really, really like that. Setting up a tent - period or not- at 9 pm is not a fun way to start an event. Driving up and dropping the trailer, followed by going straight to bed is.

1500 Map of Europe

I want to start with a map of Europe in the year 1500 because I will be referring to this map later. I want everyone to understand what I mean when I say "French controlled" areas because, as I've discovered, the shepherd's hut seems to be a French invention. I'll go into my theories as to why that is later but, for now, let's look at the map. (Yes, I will get to the shepherd's huts and all the pretty pictures, I promise).  You may notice that France is pretty, well, PINK.  You might also notice that that pink extends into a good chunk of Northern Italy and a piece of the kingdom of Naples.

In the early 16th Century, France and Spain were fighting over the Kingdom of Naples - Naples being a huge port city.  Whoever controlled Naples also had good control over a lot of  the imports from the Middle East to include Egypt.  I won't go into all the reasons for the fighting but just know that the Italian Wars are a thing. They last from 1494 until 1559.  This means that yes, that pink area north of Naples is the French controlled area.  Sicily is under direct Spanish control.  Pretty much the entire western half of the Mediterranean is being fought over between Spain and France.

Meanwhile, in England... Although it was over for 50 years almost by the time of this map, the Hundred Years War has profound affects on both English and French cultures. There is already a fabulous post on English History Authors that explains why English is the way it is today (or, at least, why it's so different from Chaucer to Shakespeare).

So, with war, there is also a culture exchange.  Wars are typically thought of in terms of fighting and not in terms of the ideas they bring from other areas - of course, with very good reasons.  Wars are fighting - horrible, bloody battles were people do die.  However, those veterans of those wars also bring back trinkets, things they've learned, as well as the effects on language.

So what does all of this have to do with Shepherd's Huts?  As I stated, I have good reason to believe they are a French invention.  From France, they spread to parts of Italy under French control as well as to England.  To explain further, here is a chart that gives the image or text of a shepherd's hut, where that image/text was believed to be created, and the year/s it is believed to be created in:

Shepherd's Hut
Tours, France1495
Tournai, Belgium1450-1475
Rome (?)1501-1550
Paris or Burgundy1413~1419
Rouen, France1500
Paris, France1480-1500
Paris, France1500
England or Scotland1596

Please feel free to click on the images - it should take you to the origin page of where I found the images. I also have many more images in my pinterest board on shepherd's huts in the SCA period. Almost all of the Shepherd's huts images (and text!) I've found are from one of three places: France, England, or French controlled areas. The earliest one I've discovered, to date, is the one from Egerton MS 1894 F.2v:

It's dated to the 3rd quarter of the 14th Century. Even though that makes sense with the clothing depicted in the manuscript, I still had to read the date three or four times. I even did the "14th C still means 1300's, right?" thing we all do at some point. :-) This makes it very interesting because it gives credence to one of my theories as to why the shepherd's hut pops on to the scene so suddenly and becomes so quickly associated with shepherds. My theory is that the Black Plague killed so many people off - particularly in France- that there was suddenly a lot of "un used" land to roam without a safe shelter (one not plague ridden or in disrepair in later years). So, shepherds decided the best way to deal with needing a place to rest while tending their flocks was to just be out there with the flock in their own travel trailer. I realize that might sound a bit silly but hear me out.

If there is one thing still taught correctly, it's that the black plague was devastating.  There is a very good article on the Black Death here which mentions half of Paris died and anywhere from 60 to 80% of France may have been killed by the plague.  Only 20% of England suffered the same fate - thank goodness for water borders!

With such a huge amount of the population gone in a very short time, there would suddenly be a lot of land no longer occupied.   This means more grazing territory but also means a huge labor shortage.  Peasants suddenly had choices and could get better offers for their labor elsewhere  With an increase in pay and larger grazing lands, what a better way to spend your new money than on an upgraded shelter that keeps you safe from the weather but also those annoyingly pesky sheep?  A shelter that you can take with you while you are out in the fields and away from any sort of civilization?

This is where I believe the shepherd's hut enters in.  If I find any depictions or mentions of the shepherd's hut before 1350, I'll have to come up with a new theory.  However, for now, the black death works as a reason for the sudden rise of the Shepherd's hut.

As for why I think it's a French invention; the plague hit France way harder than it did England, as I mention above. The labor shortage would have been greater there but also the amount of suddenly available grazing land. Also, in French illuminations and stained glass windows the "roulotte de berger" is almost always present from the 15th Century onward. Even a famous window at Yorkminster in England with a depiction of a Shepherd's Hut originated in France or Flanders in the early 16th Century.

I wrote to Yorkminister cathedral and asked. Also, when my parents went, I sent them on a hunt for the window. According to them, the tour guides never had so much fun. :-) They actually managed to find one of the resident experts on the stained glass to talk to and he was excited that, finally, one of the tourists was actually looking at the windows beyond the "those are pretty". So, if even one of the few items to survive through the War of the Roses, Henry's Reformation, and the Commonwealth period is French, plus around 90% of all depictions of a shepherd's hut I've found are either from France or French controlled areas, the shepherd's hut is probably a French invention.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  I love talking about shepherd's huts and love sharing my knowledge of them.  Please feel free to pin or share this entry with others.  My hope is that this gets shared so widely, no one dares call a tiny house on wheels at an SCA event a vardo ever again.  :-)