Norse Apron Dress (Smokkr): Instructions and Pattern (Easy, Fun, and Comfortable!)

17 September 2013

My autumn gold apron dress

When I was new to the SCA, the sitting queen of the Middle Kingdom was the lovely and wise Runa. Today she is a Duchess, but she will always be my first Queen. She is kind, very talented with the needle, and quintessentially Norse. When I think of Norse and Viking, I think of Runa. She has the most beautiful Norse apron dresses. So when I embarked on my Artisan Quest, I decided to make a version of Duchess Runa’s Apron Dress for myself! She graciously consented to share her pattern, and gave me permission to share it with you here.

Apron Dress Materials:

Linen or wool, approximately 3 yards (this depends on your measurements, see pattern below)

Apron Dress Pattern:

I’ve put Runa’s pattern into a handy PDF file, along with some of my notes. You can either download the full PDF, or simply click the image below for a closer view.

Runa's Norse Apron Dress Pattern (click for larger image)

Apron Dress Instructions:

1. Measure around your bust then divide by 3. Now add 1 inch for a seam allowance. This is measurement A.

2. Measure from your waist to where you want the dress to hit under your arm. This is measurement B.

3. Double measurement A to get measurement C.

4. Layout your material and mark it according to the diagram below (works for most fabrics and measurements) and cut. The areas in gray are scraps you can later use to make your straps or a cap.

5. To assemble, first sew the two smaller triangles marked with an * together to form the third gore. Then sew the pieces together in this order: top + gore + top + gore + top + gore. Now sew the first top to the last gore to finish it.

6. Straps can be made of the same material or you can use inkle or card woven trim.

Measurement Notes:

  • The length of your apron dress is really up to you! Apron dresses may be as short as knee-length or as long as floor-length. Your material width may determine how long it can be cut, too!
  • If your girth is larger than your bust, use that measurement for A instead.
  • Remember, you will not be wearing this dress alone. You’ll have at least one, if not two, underdresses beneath it. If you already have your underdress(es), wear them when you take measurement A.

Me with Runa, who is wearing a beautiful red apron dress!

My Notes:

  • There are no complete extant dresses like this surviving, so this is interpolation from fragments and historical texts. So don’t worry and have fun!
  • I used a felled seam to sew my pieces together because there is evidence that type of seam was used and I liked how it looked.  Check out to see the other seam techniques used.
  • Apron dress straps found attached to metal brooches in graves are generally 4mm-10mm (.16″-.4″) in width, of the same color and fabric as the dresses themselves.

The apron dress only took one day to cut and sew (and not even a full day at that)! It was easy and very comfortable to wear.

Once your apron dress is complete, you can embellish it with seam treatments, appliques, and/or jewelry. Those are topics for another blog post, though!

Many, many thanks to Duchess Runa for being such a wonderful inspiration!

Gregor and Genoveva at Vikings Come Home 2013


Fun with Norse/Viking Embroidery

6 September 2013

I’m preparing to attend Vikings Come Home on September 14 and we’re making our first, non-German garb. So what did I start with? The hat, of course! But just sewing stuff isn’t enough for me, oh no. I had to go and embroidery it, too. It’s so FUN to embroidery these stitches like herringbone, stem stitch, and chain stitch (all stitches known to exist on Norse era clothing). I have more to do, but I wanted to record my work so far:

Double herringbone stitch on a linen cap

The first image shows a double herringbone stitch, which I made using plain old DMC cotton floss (size 5). I’ve never worked with thread so large before (most of my blackwork is a single silk thread), so it goes very fast and is very satisfying.

Sleipner Norse Horse in Stem Stitch and Chain Stitch

This is Sleipner, Odin’s eight-legged horse done in stem stitch (horse body) and chain stitch (insides of the tail). Same color threads as the cap. Lovely autumn colors. The horse motif will go around the color of Gregor’s tunic, which is a dark red color that matches the dark red embroidery thread.

How to do the stem stitch

How to do the chain stitch

It goes really quite quick. I did the horse and the tail you see in a day and a half.

Build Your Own Camp Sink With Running Water: Materials and Plans

15 August 2013

Our SCA camp sink

This year’s new SCA camp project was a wood and metal sink with “running” water. We wanted to be able to wash hands and faces, brush teeth, and wash dishes at our personal camp. The brushing teeth part was particularly important! So we made ourselves a relatively simple wooden stand that held a “sink” with “running water.” We didn’t actually have direct access to running water, though, which is what makes this a cool project. We did a test-run of our sink at a weekend event and then used it for two weeks at Pennsic. It worked like a charm, perhaps even better than we thought it would! So now we feel confident to share our plans with the world so you can make one yourself.

How It Works:

Fresh water is kept in a 5-gallon pail, which is then transferred up (with a foot pump) to a simple spigot from which the water flows. The waste water falls into the bowl, down a simple drain, and into a gray (waste) water pail. Very little water is used with this method. We only had to re-fill our fresh water bucket every 4-5 days. Yet thanks to the foot pump, we had a hands-free faucet to get water whenever we needed it. And the nice thing is that our modern pails were hidden by our wooden basin stand — the enclosed stand part is optional, as the wood will definitely add to your cargo load, but it made for a prettier camp.

What You Need:

  • Two 5-gallon pails with lids (available at home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s or Harbor Freight for about $5)
  • Fluid siphon pump (available at Harbor Freight for $5-$7)
  • 10 ft of 3/8″ clear, vinyl tubing (available at Lowe’s for $1.22)
  • 3/8″ brass fittings (available at Lowe’s)
  • Rubber O-ring (available at Lowe’s)
  • Hose clamps (available at Lowe’s)
  • Various pipes and fittings (to suit your needs for the faucet, also at Lowe’s)
  • Hinge (available at Lowe’s)
  • Tennis ball, cut in half
  • Spare wood and dowels (or just buy a 4″ x 1/2″ x 2′ whitewood board and a 3/8″ dowel at Lowe’s)
  • Metal bowl to serve as your basin (available at IKEA for $15).
  • Simple kitchen sink drain (available at Lowe’s for about $9)


  • One 4′x8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood (Lowe’s)
  • Wood stain and polyeurethane (Lowe’s)
  • Metallic copper spray paint to make the pipes look nicer (Lowe’s)
  • Cotton or linen material for the curtains to cover the buckets (old cotton sheet)
  • Mirror to hang (old mirror I already had)
  • Little pails to keep toothbrushes and soap in (IKEA)
  • Glass bottles to keep dishwashing soap in (IKEA)

All told, the camp sink cost us about $100 in materials. If you choose not to use the optional materials, specifically the wood stand, it’s only about $60-$65 and your metal bowl rests right in the top of your gray water pail (without the pail’s lid on).


  • Power drill
  • Saw
  • Router (optional)
  • CNC Router (optional)

The Sink Plans:

First, you need to put together the sink and get the water to flow up through the tube. We used the basic instructions at for assembling the tubes, pump, and pails. Changes we made were at steps 4-6 (we didn’t use another pail as our basin, but a metal bowl with a hole drilled in the bottom into which we fit the kitchen sink drain). Steps 8-9 were also skipped in favor of our wood stand (see below). Step 10 was also changed — we attached pipes to the top of our wood stand and then fed the clear plastic tubing up into the pipes (all the way to the end of the last pipe).

The Stand Plans:

We made the wood stand to disguise all the modern bits. It packs flat (with the exception of the pipes, pails, and bowl) and is assembled with mortise and tenon keys. Here is the cutting plan for one 4′x8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood:

Cutting diagram for wood sink stand (click to see closer)

And here is a PDF (CampSinkSImple) for a clearer view. We are also happy to send you the Adobe Illustrator file with all the vectors, if you want a better look or want to use it on a CNC router. E-mail genoveva (dot) von (dot) lubeck [at] gmail (dot} com.

The pieces go together quite simply. Use the tenon keys in the mortise holes to keep it all together securely. It is very stable — the sink actually went through a huge storm with 60+ mph winds and suffered no harm at all (it didn’t even tip over).

Here we are trying our camp sink for the first time at Baron Wars:

The camp sink in action!

And here’s the pails and pump underneath:

Blue pail is freshwater; gray pail is dirty water

And here is our camp sink as set up at Pennsic 42, after about a week or so of use.


Camp sink under our shade fly at Pennsic

Things to Consider:

  • We had some issues with the woodcutting on the CNC router and did not re-cut due to time. Basically, I’d forgotten that the mortise holes should be cut on the INSIDE of the line, not the outside. Our mortise holes were too large and a couple broke (and our tenon keys did not fit properly). I may re-cut it in the future, though for now it’s still functional. I’ll probably wait until the wood shows signs of age and then replace it. Thankfully, a sheet of plywood is only about $40, so it won’t cost too much.
  • The pump needs to be primed (step down on it a few times to get it going), and then the water must be pumped for each squirt. This wasn’t a problem, and it certainly saved water, but it’s good to know if you want to make this. So the water doesn’t run so much as squirt out, unless you’re pumping quickly.
  • Wood is heavy. Probably obvious, but when you’ve got a lot of wood furniture as we do, it adds up. I LOVED having the sink with us at Pennsic, but I feel like I need to reduce the weight of my existing things if I’m to add anything new. I think that this sink could be done with 1/2″ plywood instead, but I won’t be sure until I try it. I’m thinking I could also make more and larger cut-outs on the sides and the back to reduce weight. If weight is also an issue for you, consider doing this as well. Also the back where the mirror hangs is really only there so we could hang a mirror and could also be eliminated if weight (or space) were an issue.

If you need more photos of any part of our sink, or details on where we found something, just ask! And if you make a camp sink, tell us about it — we’d love to hear what you did. Many thanks to hpstoutarrow at for posting the water pump idea!

Note: Our wood plans are free to anyone who freely distributes them (no selling please) — we ask only that we be notified and credited.

Elders and Novices

6 May 2013

The intention of Elders and Novices is to provide folks new to the SCA with a contact person to assist with acclimating to the culture and traditions of our game. The relationship between the Elder and the Novice is intended to be of a defined period, primarily informational in nature, and one desired by both the Novice and the Elder. A coordinator will assist local and regional chatelaines with matching across organizations, assisting with requests, and looking into the possibility of working interkingdom for folks on the move.

For additional information or to share your interest, Contact Lady Anthoinette at toni dot martell at gmail dot com.

Purpose and Description (PDF file)

The Novice brochure (PDF file)

The Elder brochure (PDF file)

Pennsic: We Will Never Forget — A Recounting by a First-Time Visitor, Carolyn J. Tody

25 April 2013

The author keeping cool at Pennsic

by Carolyn J. Tody

(Carolyn is Genoveva’s mother. Pennsic 41 was her first SCA event. This is a recounting of her experiences and adventures at Pennsic.)

Fifteen thousand participants from around the world began to filter into the mile-long encampment in western Pennsylvania. Ahead of them opened a portal to a magical time capsule. Inside lay a ticket to travel back to the Middle Ages.

Sighing with satisfaction, Lady Genoveva von Lübeck looked back at her encampment. It was an enchanted place. The enormous rainfly gave her a private outdoor living space spanning two round canvas pavilions and the portable wooden furniture she created over the past year. Even so, she wanted to do more. In the meantime, she walked through the turreted castle arch that served as an entry to the Barony of Cynnabar’s camp at Pennsic.

Genoveva stared in amazement as she walked through the Pennsic War historical village. Although this was only her second year at Pennsic, it was the forty-first anniversary for historical reenactment.

For thousands each year, this became a secret world, a retreat from the pace of modern life to another time and place. More experienced reenactors had as many as forty years of attendance. Each day brought new participants from around the globe. Their clothing and campsites largely reflected the period of medieval life occurring worldwide between 600 and 1600 A.D.

Yesterday, the earth was bare as far as the eye could see. Over here was a permanent camp store and an office; over there was an open barn. Today, a medieval community was rising. A global village was forming. This paradoxical new world was growing daily. Homespun wearing apparel and makeshift armor was juxtaposed against the occasional hidden cell phone linking its owner to the twenty first century technological age.

Genoveva in her new gown

It still seemed a bit surreal for Genoveva in her second year. She wandered through, looking at each section of the campground. Marketplaces and eateries sprang into existence. Long-established kingdoms breathed life into their compounds. Castle gates and reviewing stands sprang from their components. An even more complex marketplace rose. Vendors set up awnings with historical displays of pottery, clothing and other accessories from every corner of the globe.

Pennsic University and its related colleges staked their massive tents near the heart of the marketplace. An entire book was published to list every class offered over the two week event.

Emergency services brought in ambulances and created a sprinkler system to cool the overheated, listing daily temperatures and heat indices along with warnings on a large sign at the site. Gatekeepers set up booths to validate in and out traffic. Handicapper services did likewise, issuing ECV passes and limited vicinity parking as an alternative to the massive, yet distant hillside.

Administrators took their places. Volunteers at a location they called “Troll,” the registration pavilion, entered data on specially outfitted iPads and distributed two huge, printed directory guides to each newcomer. A medieval world began to emerge.

For Genoveva, this modern ‘old world’ bore some similarity to the Disney resorts to which she was accustomed. It was complex and otherworldly, yet vastly different and historical in every sense. The olde world became  tangible. It was awesome.

Watching Pennsic battle

And so it was into this magical environment that I entered as Genoveva’s invited guest. The evening was dark even though it still quite early, and I had driven far to find this campground outside of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. As I motored along the entry road, an unexpectedly new and surrealistic lifestyle emerged. I realized that I would learn more here than the eagerly anticipated Pennsic University classes on fiber arts, earthen kilns, silk painting, and the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy. My class list expanded. So did my camping survival skills.

Although the vast Pennsic historical village seemed new to me at first, my vast background helped me relate, as it always does. A few years before, I had lived on property at another global village, known fondly as the Disney World complex. At the time, this entertainment giant offered widespread historical elements. With an educational leave from my professional career in my pocket and a ‘for sale’ sign in front of the house, I accepted an invitation from Disney University to intern in theme park management. Even though I was a decade or two older than some of the participants, I chose the immersion experience to live with roommates from Norway, United Kingdom, France, and Washington State rather than live offsite. In part, this meant sharing a room with a night owl and navigating my own daily commute to classes, on stage presences, and professional casting, sometimes riding a shuttle bus along with characters half in and out of costume. So, after being dropped by a shuttle at the airlock entrance to the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom, I navigated my way on foot, dodging pargo forklift trucks until I reached Costuming, where I donned my new street length outfit and wove in and out of pargos again until I located the particular stairway ascending into my ‘onstage’ role.

Disney University designed the classes, even though I reported directly to MSU. Besides studying business and joining Disney Management trainees in special DM development opportunities, I toured developing attractions in steel toe shoes and a hard hat, attended “evenings with” the directors of Imagineering, Animation, Audioanimatronics and others. At one point, my own interdisciplinary team designed a new restaurant for Space Mountain and presented it in costume to the theme park Vice Presidents. Other opportunities came through VoluntEars, Give Kids the World, ToastMousters and assisting in the development of the Spectromagic parade.

During each of my dinner breaks in the Magic Kingdom Tunnel’s own Cinderella Cafeteria, entrenched employees would seek my attention as a role model for change and ask how to live their own dreams. I hadn’t realized this would happen, but happily encouraged and coached them in the necessary action steps until they moved with great momentum into their dream careers.  I, on the other hand, barely rested during long months of enjoying my survival in this 24/7 world that never slept.

During that experience, Olde World Antiques in Liberty Square commanded a large part of my Disney presence. Sharing the Silversmith building and located directly across the moat from Cinderella Castle, the antique shop broadened my horizons with visitors from around the world. From here, I often joined in spectacular media events after regular park hours and watched presidents and media moguls venture next door to eat at the Liberty Tree Tavern. European antiques filled this shop. Silver items hallmarked during the Middle Ages featured maker marks that the buyer taught me to read. Vintage jewelry filled display cabinets. Capistrano porcelain chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Artists demonstrated their unique specialties. I mixed many different perfumes from essential oils using an ancient book of recipes, bottling them in replica containers bearing the stamp of antiquity.

Least of all, I liked the silence of the Annex. More than once, as I stood here in costume behind the Annex podium, guests jumped in shock after mistaking me for one of the antique dolls lining the shelves behind my stand. But I did not have to worry; decorated masks, dolls, and vintage bears kept me under their constant vigil as I began to write on 2″ x 3″ break slips ~ at first, poetry about moonbeams dancing along the bridge to Cinderella Castle; then, about my frustration at being confined behind lacy curtains and not outside playing in the sun with guests; and finally, a story about the adventures of antique dolls escaping into the tunnels at night which thus began my current series.

My favorite visitor in the otherwise boring Annex setting was a Brazilian doctor, who closed his clinic for the first time to attend his daughter’s wedding; our fascinating conversation lasted over an hour. Another visitor was a British woman who invited me to visit her estate in England, because “we women must stick together.” During my daily commute through this vast, complex property, my internship experience became a less and less surreal immersion into a new world.

Now, here I was at Pennsic, entering a new “Olde” world. As I soon discovered, the international Pennsic War event annually draws participants from across the globe. Hosted by SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism is an international ‘living history’ group aiming to study and recreate medieval culture prior to the 17th century, primarily European. SCA provides participants with a way to learn beyond the textbook. The organization reenacts the richly detailed past from its current world headquarters at Coopers Lake in Butler County, Pennsylvania, a state richly steeped in history. “Pennsic” is a combination of ‘Pennsylvania’ and ‘Punic War.’

Since modern times spring from the past, knowing from whence we came can be of great help when attempting to understand the present and plan for the future. Pennsic kingdoms attempt to replicate the medieval period without a measure of the treachery, disease and otherwise harmful elements occurring during the Middle Ages. In this way, Pennsic reflects strong values in art and science, chivalry, heraldry, and valor found in various Period societies.

Chivalrous action unfolds in the heart of the Kingdom of Aethelmarc, which is one of nineteen SCA kingdoms throughout the world. My home state of Michigan is in the Middle Kingdom, and stretches from Kentucky to a portion of Ontario, Canada. Other Kingdoms include Atlantia, Meridies, Gleann Abhann, Ealdormere, Ansteorra, Calontir, Drachemwald, An Tir, West, Caid, Lochac, Artemisia, East, AEthelmearc, Trimaris, Northshield, Outlands, and Atenveldt.

During the Pennsic gathering, participants dressed in period apparel gather to socialize and shop, as well as craft, learn new arts, and indulge in the sport of honorable combat. No real conflict exists between the kingdoms. For the sake of calling it a “war,” though, the participants do pick competitive sides but only in a spirit of fun and friendship. In fact, friendly people provide the main attraction for participants whether they are returning for the first or for the twentieth time.

In most kingdoms, new kings and queens are chosen every six months after holding an arms tournament to select the winner. In turn, kings and queens recognize people for their service, arts, and marshal prowess.

Titles are taken seriously. You may be a Lady or a Lord, a Baron or a Baroness, a Duke or a Knight, a King or Queen, but there are no peasants; everyone is respected as nobility. Participation is growing. Currently 9,000 to 15,000 global participants attend annually, regularly averaging between 10,000 and 11,000. Foreign guests quite often attend from such countries as Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, and Greece in Europe, Japan, Australia, and occasionally the Middle East, among others.

During the second week of encampment, four major battles occur. Contenders compete early on in the Town Battle for “last man standing.” In addition, the Bridge Battle and Champions Battle yield their “best” from each battle. Melee provides an opportunity for team combat.

High safety standards are imposed throughout. Combat is a chivalrous sport. Good armor and excellent sportsmanship make the use of single and two-handed “weapons” less dangerous than the game of football. Moreover, this remains true even during the excitement of hand-to-hand combat involving hundreds. There are many different types of siege weapons, including broadswords, maces, and nine foot long spears. Some combatants also enjoy using archery equipment or other smaller specialty equipment. Well before the battle sports begin, all weapons and armor are rigorously inspected, weaknesses are corrected to specification, and passed for use.

At the beginning of the War, teams choose their allies with an attempt to keep each side as even as possible. A battle plan is formed. Combatants in this sport are fighting for their Kingdom or household. Combatants practice, often warming up in pairs or units. Teams and units are varied. The lesser skilled Baronial Levy Units perform in large blocks, consisting of newer members or those who attend once a year. Elite units perform more complex maneuvers.

Marshals are present to ensure safety, but not necessarily to referee. Pennsic uses an honor system to determine its winners. Players are on their honor to say, “I was inflicted with a “kill action,” a hard enough blow to a certain area of the body to kill a person if this were a real battle.” The action may knock them to their knees, where they fight from that stance. They are also “killed” if they are hit in an appendage hard enough to lose an arm or leg.

There is a great deal at Pennsic to interest a newcomer. Clothing alone is enough to set in place a sense of the medieval world. Many outfits are highly elaborate; a great deal of talent attends this event, and many make their own apparel. If desired, there are also commercial outlets offering the components.

Numerous items are used to denote achievement. White belts, worn by Knights, are considered to be ‘black belts’ of the sport, an achievement usually accomplished only after seven to ten long years of training. Various crowns convey a bevy of different meanings. Kingdoms and Baronies award special medallions. Artistically illuminated certificates are completed by hand, then personalized in ancient calligraphy to acknowledge a new level of achievement.

Participants are motivated to attend in ways too numerous to comprehensively list. Some people enjoy the combat. Others like to be part of a group learning fascinating historical insights. Another prime draw is found in experiencing new techniques in arts, crafts, and science. Camping is also a sport many enjoy. But overall, people come to meet new friends or reunite with those they already know.

Newcomers can watch a tremendous amount of developing activity as it unfolds. On any given battle day, a tremendous amount of pageantry occurs when uniformed units form into lines and march onto the battlefield carrying banners. Spectators will hear the clash of weapons and shields. Most agree, however, that the most exciting time for an outsider is at the end of the event when the Friday Field battle ensues. At this time, large units collide, moving in mass to make or break the day.

In addition to happenings already mentioned, there are occasional stage performances. The Known World Players is one group that encompasses actors from all of the Kingdom chapters within the SCA, including parts of the world that were known to exist during the Medieval period. Players are auditioned and cast a year before coming together to direct a play, which at Pennsic XLI was “Anne of a Thousand Days.”

There are also art and craft demos, primarily Blacksmith. Goods produced are not sold but smiths may entertain a barter or exchange of goods.

Lady Genoveva felt that her campsite bore improvement over her first year of attendance, when she crowded herself into a borrowed pavilion. Now she owns two. For the next few days of the event, I shared one of those pavilions with my seven-year old grandson and several dividing curtains. My space contained a closet rod, chair, and nice camping cot, which I made extra comfortable with an air mattress and a memory foam mattress folded in half. His portion of the pavilion contained a small canvas ‘Kidcot’ bed covered in a blue tent that enclosed the sleeping child. The remaining space in the pavilion was given over to an entryway with shelves and hanging organizers for storage.

Our two pavilions and shade fly with furniture

The morning after my arrival, I ventured out to view other campsites in our Barony. As I later came to understand, each Kingdom is a regional club within the greater SCA organization. Many of them had well-established territorial encampments around the vast campground.

Our site was located at the front of the Barony near a castle entry arch. I was surprised to discover that after assembling our pavilions, my grandson and Genoveva’s friend Gregor had dug the Barony firepit in front of our site. Actually, our campsite was in front of the firepit. Either way, I appreciated conversations shared around social centers in the encampment.

Our camp master assembled several helpful features in advance. Most prominent among them was a vast community awning and nearby hot and cold running water for a sink in the kitchen tent, water that was filtered three times for drinking. But what surprised me the most was an enclosed, open air shower tent with adjoining dressing room. Later that evening, I realized I could take a shower under the stars. The only drawback to the entire camp arrangement was a shared bank of portable bathrooms that sat just outside the entry to our Barony. Entering those on a hot summer day was akin to roasting in a sauna at my gym.

Several of the Cynnabar tents rose to a twenty foot high peak similar to “Genoveva Pavilion,” although others were square or domed. One was artistically handmade. Another was the ‘EZ up’ variety of awning with customized canvas sides.

Genoveva and Gregor had created the massive canvas rainfly supported by striped poles that spanned the front of  their pavilions and created a fine outdoor living space. The intense sun was no match for our shelter. Although it only rained on one of the days I visited, we were well protected during this horrific, battering assault. Under the rainfly, she assembled a dishwashing station and furniture she had built to fit together without the benefit of glue or nails, which included a six-foot table and four benches. Two high back chairs completed the group, one painted with her crest and the other featuring my grandson’s crest. Between them on the ground lay a large, Persian-style rug.

Her cozy interior contained a modular queen bed. Hats hung on hooks slung from the supports, as did canvas slings to hold shelves. Other features included a makeshift vanity table and desk. I was impressed to see her open a freestanding canvas closet and take out five costumes to lend me from many new ones she had sewn over the past year. There was also room for period clothing she made for Alexander and for Gregor, who was about to join us with his SCA-approved armor, ‘weapons,’ and a measure of chivalrous heraldry.

Even under this rainfly, summer temperatures mounted. Ice replacement became a daily chore using a collapsible borrowed wagon. Alexander chose to help out in this category with very little assistance, and this year he will be surprised to see that I purchased one for permanent use in the camp.

The S'more Cake

I stayed long enough for Alexander to celebrate his eighth birthday. Baking a cake in camp was challenging, so without prodding he designed a S’more cake constructed from marshmallows. On top of this we drizzled melted chocolate over graham crackers. We lost our birthday candles and instead lit toothpicks. The Baroness made a surprise visit to present him with his first scout knife which he stored in his treasure chest. Overall this was a very special celebration.

Soon, knights began to shine their armor and seek inspections for their weaponry. Some purchased new protective gear or replaced weaker armor for a safer experience. A vast array of ethnic flair appeared, including many outfits featuring chainmail. Feathered hats and shining helmets looked distinctively diverse, yet somehow provided symmetry to the field of color that flooded battlefield viewing stations.

A reenactment was underway. At home in the mundane world, however, a workweek was ending. New participants arrived to erect their campsites. Soon the Barony was so full that I could barely wind my way between tents to reach the open air shower in the evening.

My days were full. At a minimum, I joined classes and ate dinner with my family in the marketplace, shopping a little along the way. Fresh produce and other healthy foods were available for purchase among the abundance of period merchandise and crafted objects. I had plenty of opportunity to linger and talk too long with new acquaintances, but very little truly quiet time to write or practice any of a various array of my usual arts. We should all be so lucky.

At night, I occasionally watched Alexander as respectful social parties began to blossom all around the encampment honoring their Kings and Queens. Our campfire attracted an amazing number of fascinating storytellers from across our entire Barony.

When I left several days later, I took home fond memories shared with others, and incredible insights into the world that existed before my time. Spending time with family was my main motive for attending before I time traveled into the past. I found much more, however, after my daughter introduced me to Pennsic and the SCA, where I met interesting friends, other published authors, and artists who were expert in their specialties.

My insider peek at Genoveva’s glorious creations was satisfying. Among those especially highlighted were her classes, Art and Sciences exhibition booth, and pavilion. There were also many other classes I journeyed through as well as my first battle reenactment intermingling thousands of combatants wearing finely crafted armor.

One of Genoveva's blackwork students showing her work!

Genoveva is now a blackwork enthusiast. She is a period seamstress and maker of fine millinery. As Pennsic University opened its doors, she taught a well-received blackwork class. For the rest of that week, students sought our camp to show us finished work and earn the ultimate prize: a set of tools to fill the class project in the wooden box she bestowed upon them. A week later, she joined the many fascinating presenters who represented each historical period at the arts and sciences show, with her booth featuring a blackwork head covering and period garments. It was here at her booth that the local channel 10 television crew covering Pennsic XVI filmed an interview with Genoveva. Naturally, I filmed the crew filming her. But overall, it was fascinating to learn about arts and methods practiced during various historical periods.

I received other gifts during my stay. My daughter customized for me a large “platter” hat as protection from the sun. She fashioned this avant-garde, flat-brimmed hat from black wool, trimming it with feathers and dragonfly cutwork as a practical aspect of German period fashion in the sixteenth century. Her own red platter hat received nodding approvals whenever she wore it to marketplace. Returning from an errand one day, three artists asked her to sit while they sketched her.  I too benefited from her artistry because, as we walked along together laughing, a gentleman smiled and tipped his hat to me in the style of a bygone era.

Gregor in his German garb

Our peak experience arrived when Gregor joined us in Pennsylvania. He was tall and carried his armor bravely into battle, looking wonderful in a feathered platter hat. She also made him a new shirt with complex upper sleeves that were both folded and pleated.

We spent a day or two preparing for the first battle reenactment. When the time came for the first of five battles, the Barony of Cynnabar’s company of thirty joined the Middle Kingdom procession to the battlefield. Music played, drums beat, and banners flew. Our colors were red, black, and white. Over my long red dress, I wore a crested, cross-body banner (baldric) from right shoulder to left hip. I held my long skirt up to avoid tripping, using the same hand that held a parasol aloft as a sun shield. In my other hand I held a pewter goblet but my huge feathered hat dropped down, obscuring my eyes so that I had to push it higher with the water glass sloshing over as we enjoyed the thrill of partaking in pageantry.

With taller contenders marching ahead, I could only see Gregor’s armor and huge feathered hat moving through the camp. Eventually, we ended at the field for pre-battle pictures; that was when Gregor turned around to step into the picture. Genoveva caught sight of the reenactment spirit reflected in his and others’ eyes as we waited for the battle to begin. For as long as I live, and probably longer, I will never forget the surge of beautifully armored men and women recreating history before my eyes.

The first battle of Pennsic XLI occurred on Monday, my last day at the camp. I left the next day to bring Alexander home. This year, Genoveva was Chamberlain to her Highness. Next year, the keyword is ‘more.’ She created a blog to feature articles about reconstructing sixteenth century clothing, and suggested an adjoining table with my artwork at the Arts & Sciences Display. In the future, she plans to meet and help more people who enjoy the event.

She has also begun to make more things, the first of which is a castle privacy screen. She hopes her queen will find this very helpful.

By 2013, she will make a wagon and cool garb. Her pavilion will have new finials, banners, and a mirrored vanity. Gregor will enjoy a portable chair and an armor stand. Alexander looks forward to learning more about tools and the discipline of knightly period valor for children. He enjoys a good blacksmith demo and anything involving engineering.

As for me, I’m researching the period aspects of miniature replicas, figurative clay, painting, fiber, and writing. I haven’t decided which to pursue, but am happy for a few months without the nightly temptation of delicious dinner with family at Beast & Boar. Next year, I will be skinny and join Alexander in eating stirfry.

Author at the Arts & Sciences Display

Portable Clothes Rack for Events and Camping (Wood Garment Rack)

8 April 2013

An easy-to-make, wooden clothes rack!

When Queen AnneMarie mentioned She’d like to have a clothes rack in Her royalty rooms during Her reign, Gregor and I came up with an idea of a wooden break-down A-frame rack made of simple materials. We made it for less than $40 in less than an hour, and it works great!

In addition to holding royal garb, we use it at SCA events for holding gold key (loaner garb) for newcomers, we used it to hold clothes (and provide some privacy) in a crowded cabin at Gulf Wars, and we intend to use it in our pavilion at Pennsic. You could also use it as a frame for some sort of privacy screen.

Anyone can make this with a few tools and a quick trip to your local home improvement store. Here’s what you need to make your own clothes rack:






Materials and Tools:

Materials and tools needed to make your own clothes rack

4 (four) – 1″ x 3″ x 6′ Poplar boards (avoid pine or softer woods) – $6.75 each

2 (two) – 3/4″ x 48″ Poplar dowels – $3 each

1 (one) – 1 1/8″ x 48″ Poplar dowel – $4 each

1 (one) – 4′ length of rope

Saw, drill with a 7/8″ bit and a  1 1/4″ bit, pencil, and ruler

(optional) stain, primer, paint, and/or varnish




1. With your pencil, mark a 15° angle at the end of each of your four 6′ boards and use your saw to cut them. (The angles are to allow the legs of the rack to rest level on the floor. You can change this angle a bit — a larger angle will mean a wider base, a smaller angle will mean a narrower base.)

Step 1: Cut angles at bottoms of all four boards

2. Make a mark about 4″ up from the bottom of each board, centered. Using your 7/8″ drill bit, drill holes at the spots you marked. (This is where your bottom dowels will enter.)

Step 2: Drill a 7/8" hole four inches up from the bottom of each board.

3. Flip your boards over to the other end (the top) and make a mark about 2″ down from the top of each board, centered. Drill one hole in each board using the 1 1/4″ drill bit. (This is where your top dowel will enter.)

Step 3: Drill a 1 1/4 hole 2" from the top of each board.

4. Now assemble your rack by placing cris-crossing the tops of two boards and putting the larger dowel through both holes, then repeat with the other two boards on the other end of the dowel. Now slide the smaller dowels into the holes at the bottom of the legs. (You may need to tap the dowels and/or boards to get them all to slide through the holes — you want it to be pretty snug for stability.)

Step 4: Assemble your rack!

5. Tie your rope between the two smaller dowels. (This keeps the rack from spreading apart.)

That’s it! You can use the rope to keep the boards bundled together when it’s broken down. You can stain or paint your clothes rack. I’ll admit I haven’t bothered to do it yet, but it still works and looks great.


The rack breaks down for easy transport

Gothic Wooden Breakdown Camp Chair – Version 2

2 November 2012

It’s been more than a year since I made my first camp chairs, so Gregor and I went back to the drawing board to make a couple of minor improvements. Changes include a slightly lower back (less weight, less bulk, less “throne-like”), a personalized nameplate, personalized device in the top back, and more precise construction. So far we’ve cut out four chairs and finished one — the prize for Cynnabar’s Grand Tourney tomorrow (see photo below).

Our new gothic camp chair design

For this prize chair, we chose to put “Draco Invictus” on the nameplate and then allow the winner to choose another name for a new plate if s/he wishes.

For the new chair, we also tried a different staining method as we weren’t really pleased with the staining on the last chairs. This chair has a coat of stain (traditional cherry) and a separate coat of polyurethane. We like this better.

The three other chairs are for Gregor, Alexander, and myself, and they are all personalized with our device in the back (horse, crystal, and winged heart respectively) and a plate with our names at the bottom. They are sanded and ready for staining.

These chairs are made of sturdy plywood and break down completely flat. The wood was cut out on a CNC Router ShopBot so everything is precise — this is one of my favorite aspects of this chair. I am happy to share the files I created for the Shopbot– I’ve linked them below. This chair can also be made with a jigsaw hand tool, as I did that with version 1 (and those chairs are still holding up great — I just wanted to make new versions). You can use the PDF or Adobe Illustrator files below to see how to cut the wood out, either by CNC Router or by hand tool.



Level Up to Our Second Pennsic: Even Better Than Last Year!

15 August 2012

We’ve done it — we’re now level 2 in the SCA! How do we figure that? If we can survive our second Pennsic, we deserve to level up!

Pennsic last year was epic, but this year was even better! We remembered all sorts of promises and goals we’d set last year after various incidents, including:

Shopping at Pennsic

  • We brought more garb! We both had more stuff to wear. AND this year we set up a proper laundry station and clothesline behind our pavilions, so we could wash things during war … made a big difference! Alas, we still need more. Next year we’ve set a goal of having more Pennsic-appropriate garb, which for us means more linen shirts/smocks and doublets/gowns.
  • We used our space better! Last year we borrowed a 14×14 Regency that was just too small for the three of us. This year we purchased TWO 12 ft. round pavilions that we setup side-by-side — one for us, and the other one for my son and my mother. MUCH better! I had my own little space which no one ever need enter where I managed to put in a small desk and vanity, and I was ever so much happier.
  • We improved our beds. While we used the same double bed as last year, I did NOT bring the cotton futon nor the cotton sheets — last year they held moisture and I was miserable at night. Instead, I brought several foam pads (one camp pad and two pillowtop pads) all covered by microfiber sheets — such a difference! The bed was always dry and comfy. And Alexander has a special “KidCot” with a tent over it — keeps him off the ground (dry) and enclosed (warm and bug-free).
  • We did more. I made it to the A&S Display (awesome), taught an embroidery class, and experienced my first Pennsic Party. Gregor fought in EVERY battle this year (so proud of him). And we were Head Retainers for Their Highnesses, and as a result, we saw new sights.

That said, we still have a fairly long list of things we want to improve upon or make for next year, which I will record here in the hopes we remember!

One of my blackwork class students

  • Leave earlier! We left at 11:00 am, but we should have left before 9:00 am. We had to set the second pavilion up in the dark.
  • Pick classes in advance. I didn’t attend classes early on because I was too distracted, so by the time I was ready, there wasn’t much I wanted to take (except for one class, A Tale of Two Aprons, which was cancelled!)
  • Teach more classes. At least two, if not three. This is such a fantastic opportunity to meet people. Which leads me to my big one…
  • Meet more people! My darned shyness is always getting in the way here, but this is such a great place to meet new people, and I really need to try harder. I want to go to more parties next year, introduce myself to more people, and get more involved. It’s so easy to feel lost in the crowd, and only I can remedy that.
  • Help more. Everyone seemed to think that being Their Highnesses’ Chamberlain was “enough,” but it wasn’t … I wanted to be more involved and be more helpful. I suspect this will come in time. Last year I had nothing to do, and I remember being really bummed about that, and I went home and fixed it by volunteering for various things. So this year I had more, but I still felt like I had more to give.
  • Make more stuff. Things we want to make by next year include: a break-down wagon, a vanity with drawers, mirror, and small bowl, an armor stand, another chair for Gregor, more cool garb, and finials and banners for our pavilions.

Highlights of this year at Pennsic include:

Gregor looked great!

  • Marching out to the field twice with Cynnabar, music playing, drums beating, banners flying … just love this.
  • Welcoming Gregor back after every battle.
  • Being interviewed by Channel 10 during the A&S Display.
  • Introducing my mom to both Pennsic and the Society!
  • Discovering that one of my class students had a connection with me in the mundane world, and neither of us knew it!
  • Going to a party with Ceara and sharing some of Straum’s meat … (get your mind out of the gutter!)
  • Watching my 7-year-old haul 130 lbs. of ice back to camp by himself. So proud of him!
  • Having good enough garb that I got compliments and photos taken of me
  • Being sketched by three lovely ladies in the market … quite delightful!
  • Getting the Award of the Tower’s Foundation from my Barony, our mid-level award for service … wow!
  • Going to bed early and getting up late … ;)
  • Retaining for Their Highnesses when two lords were made into knights and watching their faces …. I cried!
  • Being able to help Their Highnesses and Their Excellencies during court
  • Rounding up retainers, scheduling them, and giving them little tokens as thank-yous … my first time doing this and it went smoothly.
  • Shopping with Her Highness one afternoon … the crowds parted for us!
  • Watching it hail … and having our pavilions and shadefly weather the storm!
  • Drinking mudslides with the ladies in camp!
  • Getting a pity beer from Hjorlief while out “wandering” with Ceara

    Watching the Midrealm Dragon Kite above the field

  • Seeing the gorgeous dragon kite flying above the battlefield
  • Wearing striped stocks the ENTIRE war!
  • Sitting with my creations at the A&S Display … what fun!
  • Marveling at how good Gregor looked in his doublet, his hat, and his new helmet.
  • Celebrating Alexander’s 8th birthday with a ‘smore cake of his own creation, complete with lighted toothpicks for candles!
  • Being of help to my fellow campmates in various ways … love being helpful!
  • Dancing under the shadefly during the big thunderstorm that popped up during Drunken Court
  • Receiving Eggbert, a little green knitted dragon from Gregor <3

Suffice it to say we had a wonderful time. We were sad to see it end and we can’t wait for next year!!

“Brave” and New Member Recruitment for the SCA!

21 June 2012

The new “Brave” movie by Disney/Pixar is coming out tomorrow on Friday, June 22. The movie takes place in 10th century Scotland and features a skilled archer named “Merida.” By all preliminary accounts, this is going to be a great movie — it already has a 78% fresh rating from and it’s generating a lot of buzz for it’s excellent attention to detail in accurate archery, beautiful music, great storytelling, and so on. And while it is a computer-animated movie, I know from experience that this sort of movie appeals to adults as well as kids, and geeky adults at that … I saw movies like this, as an adult, long before I had my son. I think the demographic is particularly good here for getting “Brave” movie-goers interested in the SCA!

So how to do it? My thought is to have a bunch of our local members meet up, wearing GARB, and watch “Brave” together. It would be a fun group activity AND we’d get people asking about who we are and what we do, generating interest and excitement for SCA. I’ve already spoken to our local movie theater about having a table in their lobby, and they’ve agreed … and they are giving us some free movie tickets! So we’ll be hanging out in the lobby in the afternoon, then all seeing the movie together for the 7:00 pm showing. Should be lots of fun! And perhaps we’ll interest some people in our wonderful organization.

To prepare for our excursion to the movie theater, I’ve created two flyers specific to “Brave.” I offer them both to anyone within the SCA who would like to use them for recruitment purposes. Both are in PDF format and are “fillable,” meaning you can replace the paragraph at the bottom with information about your local group. I’ve also created artwork for the flyers, and I’ve Creative Release Form giving anyone in the SCA permission to publish it in any SCA publication, including print, web, and electronic. It’s just a simple drawing of two archers in the style of the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry — the one of the left is a true representation of an archer in the tapestry, but the one on the left is my artistic representation of a red-haired girl in a blue dress, who may or may not look like Merida!

Archers inspired by those in the Bayeux Tapestry

Here are the two flyers — click the images to download the fillable PDFs:

If you use these, I’d love to hear how they worked for you.

Children in the SCA: An Introduction for Newcomers

1 June 2012

[I'm working on adding information to The Barony of Cynnabar's Newcomer page, and this is the first of several short and sweet articles I intend to write. - Genoveva]

Our children will lead tomorrow’s Society, and we encourage them to join in the fun today! It’s possible for most children, depending on their age and interest level, to participate in nearly every aspect of what we do in the SCA. The Society is not only a fabulous way to do fun things with your children, but it’s a tremendous learning opportunity for them as well. Yet it’s important to stress that the SCA is a family activity — most everything you’ll do together with your children under your direct supervision. Here’s a brief overview of how you can get your children involved and find their own special place in an SCA group:

Alexander in his pirate garb!

Garb (Clothing) – Dressing in medieval and renaissance-styled clothing is one of the best ways for your child to get into the mindset of “historical recreation.” I urge you not to make the mistake of thinking they won’t want to “dress up” or “they’re just kids, no one will care.” A simple tunic works for both girls and boys, and is easy and inexpensive to make — the tunic can go right over their normal clothes for convenience and comfort. If you’re interested in costuming, get your kids involved in choosing clothing they’ll enjoy wearing and picking out colors and fabrics. When I asked my son what he might like to wear if he were “in the old days,” he answered, “a pirate!” So together we settled on Elizabethan-era clothing of a doublet and breeches. He picked out the materials and even created the trim with tablet weaving (a new craft to learn!). He wears his garb with pride, and looks amazing!

Garb Tip #1: I made my son’s garb a little big, so he’s still able to wear it a year later and I estimate he still has a couple more years left before he outgrows it and we pass it on to a younger member.

Garb Tip #2: You don’t have to have lots of outfits for kids — you’ll notice Alexander wears his gold doublet in most of his photos. Kids are generally content to wear the same garb to events, and may take comfort in familiarity of it. Just be sure you can wash their garb in some manner, as kids get dirty! My son’s doublet isn’t machine washable, but the white shirt he wears is … and I wash it a lot!

Beading at Fall Coronation

Arts & Crafts — I don’t know about your kids, but my son ADORES arts and crafts. And the SCA is the perfect place to learn and try new crafts because we’re all researching and trying out handicrafts of all types. Many events will offer crafts for kids to do — things my son has made in just the last six months include a wooden pirate ship, an ornament, a leather pouch, marbled paper, cookies, spinning top, hammered copper, beaded favors, heraldic devices, and a working catapult! Check the Children’s Activities on an event’s schedule to find out what might be available. You can also do historical arts and crafts right in your home or local group — good projects for children include painting, tablet weaving, cooking, and embroidery. Kids may even be able to enter some arts & sciences displays and competitions, including the Youth Craftmens Faire and Prize Tourney in the spring and fall.

Craft Tip #1: If you’re going to an event without formal kids activities, bring along a craft box with historical crafts. I like to keep a craft box filled with clay, beads, and period games (such as pick-up sticks), all of which are easily obtainable at stores.

Alexander's boffer axe

Martial Arts — SCA “combat” is considered a Western martial art, and youths ages 6-17 can get involved in what’s called “boffer” combat. Boffers are padded lengths of PVC plastic with handles, allowing kids to learn combat techniques without being harmed. Kids have armor requirements like the adults, though their rules differ and less armor is required. You can get inexpensive armor by purchasing things like street hockey helmets from a used sporting goods store. If you’re interested in youth combat, ask your group’s Knight Marshall about how to get in touch with a Youth Combat Marshall and start learning!

Fencing — Youth ages 6-17 can also fence in the SCA!  From age 6 to 13, youth use plastic swords that cost about $20, and the same armor otherwise as an adult (gorget, mask, etc) — local fencing groups often will have youth loaner gear so children can first experience fencing for free. From age 14-17, they are allowed to use metal swords like adults, but only allowed to fence youth-approved adult fencers or other youths and are not allowed to participate in non-youth tournaments.  Again, fencing groups will usually have loaner gear for this age of youth also (since it exactly matches the gear for adults, just perhaps a bit smaller). [Information courtesy of Birke, Cynnabar's Fencing Champion]

Archery — The Disney/Pixar “Brave” movie (summer 2012) brings a resurgence in kids’ interest in archery, and the SCA is a particularly good place to learn youth archery. A number of events encourage youth archery, which has an even lower barrier to entry than youth combat.

Service – A big aspect of being a member of the SCA is giving back to the community, and kids are encouraged to participate as well. Depending on their age, children can assist in group service and crafting projects, help retain for royalty and barons/baronesses, teach classes on arts and crafts they enjoy, and help other children feel welcome at meetings, practices, and events. My son, who is 7 at the time I’m writing this article, has done each of these things as proud member of the Barony of Cynnabar, from simply helping to keep a water cup full for someone who is otherwise occupied and painting shields for an upcoming war to teaching an embroidery class and folding brochures (and encouraging other kids into helping him fold said brochures). Your Kingdom may also offer a Page School to help develop leadership skills and promote the skills and knowledge of the Middle Ages, which is a fun (and recognizable) way for kids to contribute.

Alexander helping wrap presents at a group fundraiser

It’s important to note that there are responsibilities on the part of both the parents and the kids, but I consider them all basic common sense. Parents are responsible for the supervision, care, behavior, and well being of the children attending SCA activities at all times, minor waivers are required for minor children (they are available when you arrive at an event), etc. Children should only attend events with parental/guardian supervision, exhibit appropriate behavior at all times, and must be able to tell an adult their parent(s) SCA name, legal name, and where they can be found. Check with your Kingdom’s Minister of Youth for more details on their Youth Policy.

Putting together a puzzle at an event without organized kids activities

You may be wondering if your child will be interested in all this. I’ve experienced a wide variety of interest levels in children in the SCA, from “barely there” to “totally engaged.” The biggest common denominator in whether a child takes an interest appears to have a lot to do with their parent’s own interest level and encouragement of it in their child. If this is just “your thing,” and you’re dragging your kids along without any input or encouragement, it’s very likely they won’t enjoy themselves or be “bored.” If, on the other hand, you actively involve your children in planning activities, choosing events, packing, and helping out, you’ll find they are often active and engaged. That said, as children get older is a natural and healthy for them to seek our their own interests. Even in those cases, it’s healthy for children to experience “boredom” because it prompts them to seek out things, within their current context, rather than wait for you to entertain them. Don’t be afraid of boredom — it can lead to quite amazing things, given adequate supervision, of course. Teenagers can be a whole different scenario, and I don’t feel qualified to speak to that situation yet, so I encourage you to check out the SCA’s article on “Your Teenager and the SCA – Some Answers for Parents.”

I, for one, am over the moon happy about discovering the SCA and experiencing it with my son in the Barony of Cynnabar within the Middle Kingdom. It gives us quality time together doing something we both enjoy, it educates and stimulates his young mind, it teaches him how to behave around adults, it helps his interpersonal skills with other children, and it makes him feel involved in something bigger than our small family. I encourage all parents and families to get your kids involved in the SCA!

If you have questions about kids in the SCA, I’m happy to answer questions from a parent’s perspective, but please note that I am not a Youth Minister nor can I speak to SCA policy. Feel free to share this article with others (with proper attribution please).

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