Parable of Miles and the Knight

The parable of Miles and the Knight:

This is as applicable to the Laurel/Apprentice/artisan relationship as it is to the Knight/Squire/fighter. Some people aren’t willing to ask for help and would rather hack at the trees themselves. This isn’t wrong but is the hardest path.

Some Laurels rest on their laurels.. this isn’t wrong.. but it’s not the only possible action.

The forest is deep and dark.. and overhelmingly huge.. and the center is impossibly far away. Sadly I believe the closer you come to the center (and to “Perfect Master”) the more convinced you become that it doesn’t exist.. and it’s still impossibly far away.

“Yes, but where do my boobs go?”

As I mentioned I’m very excited to try out Mathew Gnagy’s methods and apply that to a late-15th/early 16th century kirtle. That said.. I will need back out some information from “how they did it in the 17th century” to make sure the garment I’m creating is as true to my period as I can make it.

Juan de Alcega’s 1589 tailors’ pattern book

F.59a – “Kirtle and low cut bodice of silk”

Mathew Gnagy has a version of this which is slated to be included in his next book (due out by the end of the year).

Being presented at Invocation of the Beltan Memorial Tourney as Mistress Sylvie. Photo by Joel the Brewer.

I’m terribly excited about this because of the super narrow straps that go over the arm. Very late in the Hannah dress project I realized that my neckline was incorrect for the period (1488-1515) and location (Brittany) I was trying to reproduce. I had honestly never paid such close attention to getting the time/place right on a garment before and doing so suddenly brought up that I’d gotten a detail totally wrong. Well, ok, mostly wrong. The neckline I’d used would be correct for a middle/lower class gal from Brittany but the upper-class gals were wearing the much narrower straps.

Alcega (and by extention, Mathew Gnagy’s) pattern has this very narrow strap. I buzzed about with eagerness to reproduce this before that little voice in the back of my head cleared its throat and forced me to consider the sides of the bodice. This bodice is conic. The sides are absolutely straight and have no indication that the bodice would be fitted to cup/support the breasts. Instead this appears to use the much more 17th century idea of shaping everyone to be a cone. It looks like the breasts will fill the cone and there will be no give in the pattern to hold the breasts up.

I spent about a day mulling this over.

Either I’m wrong.. and all my efforts at “fitting” bodices has been wasted effort.. or I’m right.. and they did something different (which eventually morphed into this conic shape).

So ok.

Alcega’s pattern book “Libro de Geometria, Pratica Y Traca” (Book of the Practice of Tailoring– Measuring and Marking Out) by Juan de Alcega, printed in Madrid in 1589. This details Spanish patterns. Much later time period, very different location.

I started by skimming “Tudor Tailor” and “The Queen’s Servants”. Both of those are focused on “English” dress styles later than I’m aiming for.. and both of those use the “conic” layout for the bodice.

Next I skimmed through “Drei Schnittbücher“. These patterns are from tailoring manuals from about 1590 from Upper Austria. Jackpot. Four of the dress patterns include an indication of fitting for the breast. Coincidentally, they all show the shaping happening on only the center front seam. These are contemporary to Alcega.. and still in the wrong location.

Finally I skimmed through my pin board “(black) velvet hat, Europe 1488-1515” and honestly I just don’t know. There’s a lot of pictures there that look conic. There are a few that don’t.

Well, so okay. I guess my previous efforts have not been wasted.. but this time I’m going to try out a new style of bodice for my next kirtle. We’ll see how that turns out.

The continuing pursuit of a better kirtle

Someday I want my garb to hang like a well made suit.”
– Posted by me on Facebook Feb. 5, 2017.

Un traje para Pitti Uomo 89

Posted by Sastrería Serna on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I’ve often joked that every time I fit myself for a new self-supportive kirtle I lose 50 lbs (friends have also remarked that if that really worked then they would never stop fitting themselves for new kirtles). This time is a little bit different in that the reason I’m doing a new fitting is because I am currently down about 25 lbs from where I was when I made Hannah “Brown” kirtle and it’s starting to no longer work as a “supportive” garment. See previous iteration at In pursuit of a better kirtle.

It’s been about a year and a half since I made the last dress and despite the fact that I haven’t been posting much here (and I haven’t been actively creating things from the early 16th century) I’ve still been reading quite a bit of very interesting and illuminating books and since I’ve been distracted with other eras (6th c. Kentish Anglo-Saxon/10th c. Norse) the ideas have had quite a bit of time to marinate. So when I finally came back around to wearing early 16th century garments and finally got to the point where I need to make a new 16th century kirtle the ideas that had been mostly in the back of my mind sprang to the front and demanded attention.

Foremost among those is the thought that “I’ve done it all wrong”. To be fair, I did what seemed logical (given no other guidance) but under new light the old ways were.. well wrong. The thought exercise goes like this: “If I’d done the previous dresses ‘right’ then I would be able to adjust the fit of the garment so that it works for me over a wider range of weights. BUT, since the method is ‘wrong’ instead I have to create a whole new garment to adjust the fit.” I was aware that my previous method of creating the kirtles was not very tolerant of size changes.. and for the most part I’ve lingered in the neighborhood around the original size so that the dresses have been usable for about the last 5 years. Not bad.. but I could have done better. Funny enough, the “better” way to do it was probably the more period way too. I’m not 100% certain on that.. but all signs point to it.

The primary influence here was Mathew Gnagy‘s book “The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets“. I resisted buying this book for a long time since my husband has no interest in wearing a late period doublet.. and the pattern considered here is a 17th century doublet. It’s out of period for the SCA.. and I just didn’t see how this was going to be useful. Boy was I wrong-ish. Mathey Gnagy comes from a bespoke background. This is the methods use by super-high end tailors to make stunning modern suits. Mr. Gnagy has taken his knowledge as a high end tailor and reviewed “period” garments and then written a book detailing the steps you need to go through to get the proper silhouette with traditional tailoring techniques. It’s all the things I wanted to know about “how did they do it” beyond basics questions that no one was writing about. Reading this book made me super anxious for him to publish the next two books he’s committed to write (Pattern Manual: 1580-1640 due by end of 2017 and Women’s Kirtle coming up after that).

This book led me to “17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns” which was just published this year. After I received that book and read over it I found out that they had already published another book with Women’s patterns. Both of these are fabulous additions to a late period recreation library.

I’m not completely certain that all of the methods shown in these books were used before the 17th century, but it seems reasonable that some of them were. These types of things did not spring like Athena from the head of Zeus, fully formed in the 17th century. I’m fairly certain that some form of these methods was used earlier than that.

In short the method is to create the garment with the outer fabric and the interlining and sew this all together (seams, eyelets, binding, etc) and then attach the lining in such a way that the lining could be easily removed in order to make alterations to the garment. Reviewing the patterns I’ll also need to change the shape to be more period correct for the late 15th century (more shallow point/no point at the bottom of the bodice). Sadly, because Mr. Gnagy’s other books aren’t out yet I’m having to extrapolate both from the 17th century way of doing things.. and the “men’s” way of doing things. So, since the “right” books aren’t yet available (and I totally could not afford to participate in Mr. Gnagy’s Kirtle workshop earlier this year) I will again be making my best guess.. but this time I hope it’s a better guess.


Braun Melanie, Luca Costigliolo, Susan North, Claire Thornton, and Jenny Tiramani. 17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017. Print.
Gnagy, Mathew. The Modern Maker Vol. 1: Men’s Doublets. Charleston SC: Printed by, 2014. Print.
Johnson, Caroline, The Queen’s Servants: Gentlewoman’s dress at the accession of Henry VIII, United Kingdom: Fat Goose Press, 2011. Print.
Tiramani, Jenny, Claire Thorton, Luca Constigliolo, Armelle Lucas, and Susan North. Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns Book One. London: V&A Publishing, 2011. Print.

Menologion of Basil II

From: Menologion of Basil II (
between 979 and the early years of the 11th century in Constantinople

What I see (that I think is cool):

St. Hermione: Hermione was beheaded because she would not worship Hercules. “Two servants, Theodulus and Theotimos, were entrusted to perform the execution. Since they were in such a hurry to execute the saint, not allowing her time for prayer, their hands withered. They immediately believed in Jesus Christ and with repentance fell at the feet of St. Hermione.” From Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Short sleeves! Ok, a friend commented that it could be sleeves that are rolled up.. but I think it reads more like short sleeves. I also see either tall boots or straps over something else on the lower leg. Pants appear to be patterned or embroidered. It’s possible the beads in his hands are a early form of paternoster and signify him converting to Christianity.

Epimachus of Alexandria: “During a persecution against Christians at Alexandria (about the year 250), Saint Epimachus in his fervent zeal came into the city, destroyed pagan idols, and fearlessly confessed Christ. … After fierce tortures, the saint was beheaded by the sword.” From Orthodoc Church in America
This reads as either a short-sleeved tunic over a long sleeved tunic OR an arm band half way down the sleeve. Either is cool for me. The sword is suspended from a baldric. I don’t think I can recall seeing anyone recreate this but now that I think of it I can think of at least one other example, from a burial, that wore the sword like this (Anglo-saxon tablet woven baldric… I’ll have to dig up the reference). Patterned or embroidered pants. Armor boots? or some kind of tall sock tied behind the knee? Cool either way.

Bulgar soldiers slaughter Christians: The guy on the left is wearing the stereotypical coat with horizontal buttons Ive seen recreated. All of the attackers seem to have fur around at least the color. The non-yellow guys have fabulous brocades. (I’ve got to wonder why they’re fighting/shedding blood in brocade but, whateves) Added bonus, the guy in yellow also appear to be wearing a fuzzy hat. Bare legged guy.

“The Science of Cooking”

Working Title/Artist: Still Life / Georg Flegel
Date: probably ca. 1625–30

I’m very please to be able to host a newly translated cookbook.

Gwyn Chwith ap Llyr (Glenn Gorsuch) had a 16th century Hungarian cookbook translated and has allowed me to host a copy. Enjoy.

When is a hood not a hood? When it’s a bonnet and frontlet.. unless it isn’t.

A while ago I found myself fascinated with a hat. I blame Tullia. Happily the hat is limited both chronologically and geographically. As far as I can tell this headgear was popular from 1488-1515 in northern France/Brittany and the Netherlands. Even more happily that seems to coincide with my waisted kirtles which I like to wear so much.

I made this cap up for my elevation to the Laurel last year(and completely forgot to post about it). I believe this would be called a “Breton Cap”. I’ve found references naming the decoration “agrafe”.

What I did:
– My hair (which is down to the middle of my back) is braided into two braids behind my ears with a tape and then is laced on the top of my head. Tape purchased from Tudor Tailor’s Etsy store: Hairlacing Kit in Red with Cream Stripes for Tudor/Elizabethan Reenactment Featuring Bronze Bodkin and Ribbon.
– Over that I wore a pair of ear irons. Ear irons made by Louise Passe and ordered from her Etsy store Oorijzer, or Ear Irons**.
– Over this I wore a red silk taffeta coif I made. This is lined in linen and edged with some gold lace. A red ribbon is used to hold this on my head. I suspect I’ve made my coif too small. There’s far too much of my hair showing in front of it. I’ll need to remake this in the future.
– On top of this I wore a black velvet round bonnet (lined in black linen) and a black velvet frontlet (lined in gold silk taffeta) edged with some findings purchased from Joanne’s. The frontlet and bonnet were made following the pattern from “The Queen’s Servants”. I’ve tacked the frontlet to the bonnet and then pinned the whole thing to the coif and my hair with pins purchased from Historic Enterprises. Pins, Veil, pkg of 4 or 10
– The Laurel agrafe (gold decorative pin) was purchased from Etaine du Pommier who also has an Etsy store.

** I’m not certain that Ear Irons were used under the Breton cap. But, considering this is a style from Brittany (the northern part of modern day France) and Brittany is ~400 miles from The Netherlands/Belgium and Ear Irons were widely used in the low countries, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to use ear irons to tame the corners of my coif under the Breton cap. Besides that, they’re just cool.

Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild: English, French, and Burgundian Women’s
Bonnets in the 15th Century: One costumer’s exploration and recreation of historical headwear by Cynthia Barnes (Volume 12, Number 2 Mar-Apr 2014)

From “Anne of Brittany: The Story of a Duchess and Twice-crowned Queen”
“Francis himself, in ducal robes, received with the Lady Anne, who wore a quaint Breton cap and a rich gown whose train was heavy with gold embroidery.”

From “The Queen’s Library”:

From “Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne. Illuminated by Jean Poyer”:
“Poyer paints Anne wearing the Breton cap, which signified her ties to her homeland of Brittany, and dress in maroon, a favorite color of the queen.”

Johnson, Caroline, The Queen’s Servants: Gentlewoman’s dress at the accession of Henry VIII, United Kingdom: Fat Goose Press, 2011. Print.

Adventures in Hair Taping

I am only just barely allowed to carry a girl card. I have long hair (mid-back).. but I pretty much lack clue about how to do girl things with my long hair. Recently I find myself fascinated with hair taping. Specifically it seems that hair taping is exactly the base needed to keep ear irons, a tudor coif and finally a round bonnet and frontlet in place. To that end I’ve started doing hair taping under my medieval head dress. In doing this I’ve run into a few issues.

Method 1: From “The Tudor Tailor” p. 142
The model’s hair is waist length. Requires two tapes cut long enough to go twice around the head.
– Run a part down the center of the whole head.
– Start braiding each side just behind the ear.
– Incorporate a ribbon into the braid. The braid is bound and tied off leaving a length of ribbon hanging free.
– The plaits are crossed over the top of the head and secured with a couple of hair pins.
– The ends of the ribbons are crossed again at the nape and tied together at the top of the head. The loose ends are tucked in and pinned.

Method 2: From “The Tudor Child” p. 140.
The child model’s hair is probably shoulder length. The braids start on the back of the neck and end at the top of the head. Tieing the tapes together is sufficient to keep the braids on top of her head.
– Lay the tape across the back of the neck.
– Run a part down the center of the whole head.
– Incorporate the tape into the braids.
– Pull the braids up to the top of the head and tie the tapes together.
– Use pins to hold down stray hair.

Method 3: From Tudor Tailor “Off With Their Hoods” demonstration at Costume College 2015 (Photo set from FB Elizabethan Costume Group)
Jane, the model, has very long hair. Possibly butt-length.
– Lay the tape across the back of the neck.
– Run a part down the center of the whole head.
– Wrap the hair with the tape (or incorporate the tape into the braid itself)
– Smooth the tape down the hair and then end the braid with a half hitch to hold the tape in place.
– pull the braids up and over the top of the head.
– Stitch remaining tape around braids to hold them in place.
– Once the stitching reaches the bottom wrap any remaining tape around the front of the braids until you can tie it off at the top of the head.

My issues:
– As always doing this to yourself is a PITA. Issues may have been resolved by getting someone else to do this to my hair but that’s not a good long-term solution for me.
– I found that coiling the tape around the hank of hair to be highly insecure. Once the hair hanks were wrapped pulling on the tape to secure the braids to the head caused the tape to slip off the braid. I’ve “fixed” this by going with the second method and instead incorporating the tape into the braids directly.
– My hair is shorter than Jane’s hair. I suspect that some of my “falling out of the stitch” issues are occurring because I can only wrap the braid once around my head with the tail ending up just above the opposite ear.
– Where should the braids start? behind the ear, base of the skull, low on the back of the head? I’ve been starting right behind the ears. I’ve had best luck when I start off super-tight with the braid. If the braid is too loose the hair just slops about on my head.
– How do you keep the braids affixed at the crown of the head? When I’ve stitched the hair onto the top of my head I’ve noticed the braids slipping towards the back of the head. I currently have no solution for this other then using more bobby-pins.
– How do you keep the braids from slipping out of the loops with which they’re sewn onto the head? During the day I’ve noticed the braids slipping down towards their starting point. Do I just need to sew tighter or is there some trick I’m missing? The best I’ve come up with is to be sure to pierce the braids occasionally when stitching them on.
– Is there some magical way to take this out without ending up with a snarled mess?

All that said, once my hair is up it makes a fine base for a coif, round bonnet and frontlet.

Recreating Veils and Hairstyles of the Middle Ages: 14th Century Italian Hair Styles

Apprenticing Treásach Þjóðhagi

On the 22nd day of July Anno Societatis LII, 2017 in the common reckoning, which is the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene, patroness of penitent sinners and women, at the Investiture of Gwain and Meisha as the undoubted Prince and Princess of Cynagua, I took to indenture Treásach Þjóðhagi as my apprentice. It is my undoubted pleasure to guide and mentor her.

As part of the ceremony we signed a chirograph. This is a medieval document, which has been written in duplicate, (or triplicate or very occasionally quadruplicate) on a single piece of parchment and then cut through to separate the parts.

Calligraphy and Illumination done by Mistress Danaë FitzRoberts (my grand-Laurel).

The text of the contract:

Þ is a thorne. Pronounced “th”
ʃ is a sometimes called sigma. Pronounced “s”

Þis indenture made þe twenty-second day of July, yn þe raene of our Soverand lorde King Miles the iijrd and his fair Queen Ariela ijnd, wyttneʃs þat Treásach Þjóðhagi, a Lady of the West Kingdom, doʃʃe in goode feyth and free will bynd hyr ʃelf apprentice to Sylvie la chardonnière, Mistress of the Laurel, for a terme of no leʃs þan i complete and continuous yaere from þis date or until the rightful Soverand may call to Treásach serve as Mistress in her own right. Þis indenture made ʃo þat Sylvie may teach, conʃyll and inʃtruct her such matters aʃ þe ʃeid Sylvie has deems fit. During which term þe ʃeid Treásach þe ʃeid Sylvie as hyr miʃtress yn all þynges well and faiþfully ʃhall ʃerue, hyr conʃyll kepe, and hyr lawfull and honest commaundements euerywhere gladly do. She ʃchall not do damage to hyr ʃeid miʃtress wyþin þe ʃeid terme to þe value of xii pence or more per annum. She ʃchall not waste þe godes of hyr ʃeid miʃtress nor lend þem wyþout hyr order or ʃpecial commaundement. She ʃchall not play any unlawful or unʃeemly gamys whereby hyr ʃeid miʃtress may have any loʃs. She ʃchall not frequent a tavern ʃave to do þe buʃneʃs of hyr ʃeid miʃtress. She ʃchall not wyþdraw unlawfully from þe ʃeruice of hyr ʃeid miʃtress during þe ʃeid terme nor flee nor depart for any reaʃon, until ʃhe haʃ completed hyr indenture or she ʃchall releaʃe hyr. And yf ʃhe ʃchall wyʃh to purchaʃe hyr freedom during þe ʃeid terme ʃhe may do ʃo for xxxiij ʃolidi. And þe ʃeid Sylvie þe ʃeid Treásach hys indentured yn hyr art which she uʃes by þe beʃt and moʃt excellent means þat she knows ʃchall diligently teach and nʃtruch or cauʃe to be inʃtructed by oþers, puniʃhing in due manner, and noþyng to be hyd frome hyr þerof. And alʃo ʃchall find for þe ʃame indenture ʃufficient victuals and apparel lynyn and ʃhoys and all oþer neceʃʃaries during all þe ʃeid terme as ys fitting to be found for ʃuch an apprentice of þat art. In wyttines whereof þe aforeʃaid parties to þeʃe indentures interchangeably have put þeir ʃeals. Done at þe Summer Investiture of Cynagua on þe feaʃt day of St Mary Magdalene, patroness of penitent sinners and women, Hereford yn þe liiʃt yaere socitatus.

Mistress Sylvie la chardonnière


At Cynaguan Coronet one of our meals drowned in the cooler. It was in a zip-top bag that ended up under the melted ice water. It filled up with water and ruined the food.


Coolers are stupid. This is so dumb. The whole setup of a cooler leads to either drowned food or contaminated ice. I hate the idea of accidentally poisoning my family while trying to keep food good. So for about a week after Coronet I mulled over the problem.

I need food to stay cold. Heat rises, cold settles. I need to keep the water from the melting ice away from the food that should be lower than the ice.

After contemplating this for a while I started looking into iceboxes, I asked Google: “how does an ice box work?” reasoning that I could take a page from history and apply that lesson to our modern medieval hobby. Eventually I settled on a solution. I presented my case to my husband and suggested that he should build me an ice box.

He countered that maybe instead we should look to buy an actual antique icebox. It turns out they actually made “apartment sized” antique iceboxes. I found a few online (far away) and then finally my husband found one in a nearby antique shop. We bought it for $150. It’s a beautiful thing, all in oak.

The top 1/2 of the box is setup to hold blocks of ice. As the blocks melt the water goes down a tube at the back of the box and exits out the bottom. The ice sits on metal which is attached to the walls/shelf in the lower portion of the box.

We used it this past week at West An Tir War. The days were in the mid 60s. Two blocks of ice kept it at about 40F in the lower portion of the box for about a day and a half. We stored raw meats and dairy up in the top portion next to the ice blocks. I view this as a total win.

Early tudor smock

Third (and current) iteration.

I need a new smock. Something appropriate to the dress styles I want to recreate from 1488-1515. I skimmed the books I have available and found that I really like the square-necked smock showing in The Queen’s Servant’s (p. 36). It turns out that this is also the same style as a smock shown in Patterns of Fashion 4 (item #75 pgs. 57 and 115) identified as belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots. Added bonus, the rectangular construction used in the PoF4 smock is spot on with the pattern I’ve been using for rectangular tunics cut to fit my body shape (ie, cut more narrow in the shoulders).

Notes about the original from PoF4:
– created using 38″ wide fabric. The selvage is used in the construction. I cannot find 38″ wide white linen fabric so I’ve decided instead to cut 60″ wide fabric down to the width needed and hem the edges.
– there is no shoulder seam. The body portion is made from one piece of fabric.
– pieces are connected with an insertion stitch (also called faggoting). The images aren’t terribly clear but it looks like an interlaced herring bone stitch. The connection points are directly across from each other (not off-set) and the twining forms a somewhat bulky cross in the opening between the fabrics.
– the sleeves were cut from one piece of 38″ fabric that was split down the middle (giving a selvage on the front of each sleeve). I don’t have access to 38″ wide fabric AND I’m big so I have increased the width of the sleeve.
– It appears that the gores on the original were made from the off-cuts from the upper portion of the body.
– If the neck opening is cut as one piece it would be possible to make the gussets from the fabric removed from the neck opening.
– the lace around the neck and wrist seems to have been recycled from a different garment(maybe a collar?). At this time I plan to sew a smock without lace.

The original from PoF4 is noted as belonging to Mary. It’s doubtful that this is something she was wearing when she was beheaded since there are several sources that note that all of the clothes Mary died in were burned after her beheading. I’m still digging to see if I can find out more of the provenance of this garment.

I’ve included the measurements I used to create a smock for me. This is slightly adjusted from the original (shorter in length, wider in the arm, excludes the cuff on the end of the sleeve, tapered the sleeve, more narrow at the shoulder, excludes the lace at the neck and wrist). It’s not as efficient at fabric usage but it does fit me. If you had smaller arms then the sleeves of the garment could be made from the ~22″ offcut left when the body piece is cut out.

The pattern for the smock is found in Patterns of Fashion 4 (item #75 pgs. 57 and 115). The book includes a lot of very nice closeup pictures and a measured drawing with construction notes.

I think the insertion stitch is the interlacing stitch/ orientalischer Flechtstich linked on Medieval Silkwork
or possibly the stitch demonstrated here:

I’ve decided to do this smock in two phases.
Phase 1, make a smock and use flatfelled seams. This allows me to quickly have a smock to use and easily test out the fit and find any issues before I dump a lot of time into this project.
Phase 2, make a smock and hem all the edges of all the pieces and use the insertion stitch to connect the pieces.


Chemise belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587) at Fotheringhay Castle

Facebook post by Barry Pearce in the group “Elizabethan Costume” has some additional fantastic pictures


Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion 4 – the Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women c. 1560-1620, London: Macmillian, 1985. Print.

Johnson, Caroline, The Queen’s Servants: Gentlewoman’s dress at the accession of Henry VIII, United Kingdom: Fat Goose Press, 2011. Print.