Who am I.. It’s complicated.

Well ok, no it’s not. I play in the SCA as Mistress Sylvie la chardonnière. I’ve played in the West Kingdom of the SCA since 2002. I’ve cooked several feasts and autocratted several events. I live in the Province of Golden Rivers (Orangevale, CA) with my husband Sir Fearghus MacAirt, son Erik Stormbringer, two dogs (Freya and Sif), and a cat (His Evilness Emperor Loki the Kitty).

This is my blog to dump the random research-y bits that I find or figure out in recreating the middle ages.

My name is French.. in cookery I’m mainly interested in medieval French cookbooks.. but I like wearing all different kinds of clothing. So sue me.

Sylvie’s Words of wisdom:

When someone praises your art, your one and only response should be “Thank you”.

If they go on and ask “what would you do differently next time?” ONLY THEN are you allowed to point out all of the flaws that are terribly obvious to your eye. But not until they ask what you would change.

Do not tear down your art because you have spent thousands of hours staring at it. It really is a beautiful thing and you’re allowed to accept praise for it without negating the praise with your own criticism.

Please contact me at Sylvie@fibergeek.com

Here they are, 7 random facts about me:

1. I was born in the same hospital and delivered by the same doctor as my mother. The hospital burned down after she was born.. but they rebuilt it before I was born.

2. I have a scar on the back of my right hand and the top of my right foot. Both scars were made by nails (rusty nail on foot.. thumbnail on hand.. my thumbnail).

3. The first garment I ever sewed was for the SCA in 2002. It was horrible and has happily vanished into the mists of time. My mother once asked me how I got to be so good at costuming… I told her that over the years I’ve destroyed a lot of innocent fabric.

4. My Dad believes that “the family that builds together stays together”. When I was a kid we built four houses from the ground up. Mom and Dad are working on the fifth. It’s a Queen Anne Victorian on 47 acres on the Yellowstone River (Neverdone Farm). The only contractors they’ve hired on the new house were the concrete workers who poured the gypcrete for the radiant floor heating system, and the guy who will be checking the elevator to make sure it’s installed properly.

5. I’m a good cook because 1) my mother’s an indifferent cook.. 2) when I was a kid if you cooked dinner you got to stop working on the house for a while in order to go make dinner and 3) she who cooks the dinner doesn’t have to do dishes.

6. I turned 30 twice. When I was 26 my friend was turning 30. She was terribly freaked out about this and so we traded birthdays. I turned 30 and she turned 27. For the whole year I told people I was 30. The next year we traded back. I found it wasn’t as traumatic to me the second time.

7. Although I seem productive I’m actually very close to crippled by “analysis paralysis”. I will analyze a problem forever and have a hard time starting a project that I find daunting. I’ve mitigated this somewhat by making lists. Lists allow me to mark things off. If I can break a project into smaller projects I can edge around the paralysis by working on the smaller projects. But sometimes it’s a close thing.

Curiously enough, blogging is also allowing me to get past the paralysis. By talking through the task with an (imagined) appreciative audience I can more easily decide what to do.. and just do it. With progress shots. Maybe no one cares.. but I do.. and it helps.

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2 thoughts on “About”

  • Hello Sylvia
    I ran across your blog in my typical fashion of wandering the internet following links of interest which begins with one search goal and then morphs into a an altogether new one.
    This one began with researching nalbinding techniques which led to Viking clothing which eventually led me to your down and dirty unders tutorial. So here I am.
    I love thinking about the contraction of clothing and I am always wondering “why” did those people choose that method to create that item. For example why do the toes of many arctic style boots turn up? Do they stay drier? Is it easier to walk? That’s the kind of thing I think about.
    So when I saw your undies tutorial I wondered… why are they designed the way they are? I assume linen does not stretch much and I can understand the need to make them a little lose. Do you have an explanation for why they are made so very baggy? Is it really just for ease of movement or is there another reason? I also wonder why so many of the underwear designs have a waist band made to roll up or bunch up under the draw string. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make then the length that we consider typical? They must be another reason
    I read another guys take on the underwear conundrum and he believes that the seam on the inner thighs was not sewn. He thinks they were left open so that the legs could be pulled up out of the way or wrapped tightly around the thigh when wearing the single leggings. Sorry I don’t remember what they are called. I like your option better.
    Anyway mostly I just wanted to tell you that I also enjoy the history of clothing and I will read more on your blog.. .Ok one more thing I wonder about. What is the point of those crazy long tails on the hoods of some medieval cowls. You know like the lirepipe style hood. If there is a reason beyond pure style I want to know what it is.
    Martha T

    • I got nothing. I mean I want to have something.. and I feel like I should have something.. but honestly patterns for braies are all conjectural. I did not start with an extant pair of braies and use that to make my pattern. I started with paintings and illuminations which show men wearing {something} on their bottoms.. and then worked backwards from there.

      Here’s what I do know.. guys wore {something} it seems to be white.. it started out fairly long and got shorter over time (see 15th century men’s bikini bottoms). There’s a chance that when the tunics were long (pre-12th century) there may not have been anything worn under them. Early on men are wearing chausse (hose) and they’re pointing them to a belt around their waist or the belt holding up their braies. Then those chausse morph into connected hose/pants. Then as the tunic hemline crept up they decided they needed something to cover their nether bits. So at this point they need a thing.. and they don’t actually have a lot of options for closures or ways to keep them up. There’s limited evidence for drawstrings. So the modern knee-jerk reaction to attach a tubing to the top and then draw a rope tight to hold up your pants.. that may not have actually been as prevalent as we think. In fact off the top of my head I can’t think of any medieval pants made with a drawstring.

      A lot of the early images of braies look a lot like “girding your loins” where you take your long tunic and pull it up/tuck it in for battle/dirty work.

      As for lirapipes… I believe (and I haven’t actually dug into it so bear with me).. but I think hoods started out with short tails (10th c) then I think the tail got longer. I think it’s a fashion statement. It’s a way to show off a lot of fabric that doesn’t actually require a lot of fabric. Or.. o.. or maybe it’s a way to use up a lot of those scrappies ou end up with when you make a hood. No one’s going to throw away fabric scraps.. but if you use them in a lirapipe it’s a show of wealth so-to-speak. So then in the late 14th/15th centuries some people started using the very long tails to tie up the hoods into new not-really-a-hood shapes.. so eventually we end up with shaped hats.. which are no longer hoods.. but are just sewn to look like the tieing we did before. It’s very interesting.

      Thank you for reading my blog!! I look forward to hearing more from you.

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