Reflections Upon Becoming a Laurel Vigilant (It’s About Time)

13 January 2016

Me being placed on vigil to join the Order of the Laurel at Pentamere 12th Night on January 9, 2016 (Photo by THL Eva vanOldeBroek)

On Saturday, a significant and pivotal event occurred along my winding path in the SCA. I was invited to join the Order of the Laurel and placed on vigil. For those unfamiliar with this, it is the Society for Creative Anachronism’s highest honor for excellence and mastery in the arts. I am deeply honored to have been chosen to join the Order and I am greatly looking forward to “being a Laurel” and furthering the arts in our Society.

As you might imagine, I am still processing what this means, how I feel about it, and my intentions for my vigil and elevation to the Order. This will likely take me some time. I am definitely the “still waters run deep” sort of person.

There is one matter I would like to address now, however, and that is a sense by some of my dear friends that this was long overdue, that they were surprised it didn’t happen before now, and, well, it’s ABOUT TIME. For those who said this to me, I appreciate your kind words and I understand your sentiment, but I respectfully disagree on those points all save one: it really is about time. But not for the reason you might think.

As a member of the general populace, my perception of when someone was ready to become a Peer had a lot to do with time. I watched my fellow SCA members working at their art, doing their good deeds, and fighting the good fight. When I saw that someone had been doing something for a long time, with a purpose, I generally thought, “hey, someone should make that person a Peer!” I think this happens often, as I hear my friends and other members make similar remarks.

I recall one of my first thoughts about joining the Order came during Pennsic 2013. A friend from out of Kingdom looked at me and said, “You’re a Laurel, right?” Naturally I replied that I was not—I had not even received an arts award at that point. But it planted a seed in my mind. Why did she think I was a Laurel? Was I Laurel material? Should I be one if she thinks I should? Do I want to be one? And so on.

So now that it’s happened and I’ve been placed on vigil, what do I think? Was it long overdue? Was I held back? Were the Order’s expectations on me too hard? Did the Order make me wait too long and cause resentment and frustration and burnout? (All statements I’ve heard uttered.)

A good friend asked that I address these points for the benefit of others who may be thinking along these lines. I’ll do my best to give the honest answers, not just the noble answers. (That’s not easy for me, by the way. Still waters and all that.)

My inexpensive but lovely trestle table

My first A&S project, a table based on St. Jerome in His Study by Albrecht Dürer. I love this table. I’ve made nearly all of my A&S projects on it over the years, and it goes with me to Pennsic annually, too!

Was it long overdue? I started in the SCA in ’97, but didn’t progress. I began again in 2011 and jumped in with both feet. I made my first “thing” within one month (my early 16th c. trestle table), entered my first A&S display a few months later (blackwork), and entered not one, but two, things into my regional A&S competition nine months later (blackwork caul and the red goldwork Swabian gown I was wearing this past Saturday). From my observation of other artisans, this intense behavior was a bit unusual. But it was totally in keeping with my personality. I’m a go big or go home type. From an outside perspective, it may have seemed I was ready before now. Eight first place awards at Kingdom A&S and Pentathlon A&S Champion could give that impression. But despite this obvious enthusiasm, I was still a beginner at recreating period artifacts. It took time for me to dig deeper, understand nuances, create beautiful things that were both visually and structurally appealling  … and I’m still working on that. I have much further to travel and much more to learn. It’s only recently that I began to feel that I was achieving a sense of mastery, of hearing myself speak to others and being amazed at what information I was able to convey, and at my technical abilities that were all built upon one another. Only in the last few months had I finally arrived at a place where — frankly — I was less interested in other’s approval of my art and it was less of a motivation to do better. My motivation was turning inward, becoming more about my journey and less about proving myself to others.


Me and my 16th c. style carved doll. Displaying and talking about my art took courage.

Was I held back? I don’t know what others have done, but I have no sense of this. It takes time to get to know people, and it took time for the Order to get to know me and see my progress. I won’t fall back on false modesty and say that I didn’t think I was ready, because I was already thinking of myself as a Peer long before I was recognized. If this seems impertinent, you must understand that I do not suffer from low self-esteem. My ego is quite healthy! But just because I know myself does not mean that others do. Part of this journey has been allowing the quiet parts of me to be seen by others. Being out there, displaying my art, writing blogs and tutorials, teaching, and sharing what I know with anyone who asks. These things took time and courage to do. When I consider how long it takes me make big moves in my own relationships, I’m rather impressed the Order came to know this aspect of me as quickly as they did.

Were the Order’s expectations on me too hard? Well, let’s see. My own personal signifier of mastery is the ability to write an entire book about one’s field of study and have it be well respected and regarded by its audience. That’s what I do in my modern world. Did they make me write a book? Have that book win awards? Have that book be a bestseller in its field? No, they did not. Thus, the Order’s expectations are actually lower than my personal ones for myself. (No, I do not expect others to do this in the SCA either, but the expectations I hold myself to are different than what I hold others to.) And for what it’s worth, I would one day like to write down what I know in a book so it can be preserved and shared with others, but I’m still a ways off from that. Just know that that that expectation has not changed just because of this event.


Winning the A&S Pentathlon in 2014 was both joyous and frustrating. It was frustrating not because I thought, “hey, I won now I should be a Laurel” but because it underscored the fact that not everyone was confident in me.

And finally, the big one … Did the Order make me wait too long and cause resentment and frustration and burnout? This one is a less pat answer. I’m rather an impatient person, as can be evidenced by my enthusiasm and history of making things. When I get a notion to do something, darn it, I want to do it. Now. Right away. I hate to wait. This is both a blessing and a curse. If I am completely honest, there were moments of frustration. I felt confident in myself, but there were times it was pretty clear to me that others were not as confident in me. That was difficult for me. But after I cooled off, I could see the solution — if some individual was not confident in me, then it was probably because I wasn’t expressing myself well enough. I usually didn’t even know that person. So then the ball was in my court to get to know them, and if I couldn’t do that for whatever reason (shyness), I could at least try to express myself to the world better. Because in the end, being recognized as a Peer is really just recognition of the awesomeness already present. It won’t change who you are, make you a better person, or anything like that. It’s recognizing something you should already be feeling inside. So, yeah, I felt frustrated when the Order didn’t work as fast as I wanted, but not resentful. Honestly, I’m grateful they even noticed me — I do not like to toil in obscurity. And now that I’ve been placed on vigil, I feel humbled that they chose me at all. It has put many things into perspective for me.

As for burnout, that’s really more about my inclination to take on ambitious projects. That is MY problem. That has nothing to do with the Order. I get burned out all the time. I also bounce back all the time. But the burnouts are usually preceded by burning brightly and making or doing something awesome, often something that challenged me to grow. So that’s alright with me. Life might be a bit boring and mundane for me otherwise.

Of all the things on my mind since this happened, a big one is how my being placed on vigil could make others feel — those who are not yet Peers but might like to be. Maybe someone out there reading this is feeling a bit sad, or overlooked, or just unrecognized.  Why her and not me? Or why her and not this other person? If we’re all honest with ourselves, I bet we all have felt this at one point or another. My best advice, and this comes direct from my psychology degree, is to neither repress this feeling nor to feed it. In time, you will find the ways to express the awesomeness inside you to the point that others recognize it, too. In that way, it really is all about time. Time to be the best you can be, time to share it with others, and time for the Order to recognize it.

Richelieu Cutwork Embroidery Apron and Tutorial

11 January 2016

CutworkTutorialThis weekend my mentor and friend Mistress Crespine de la Vallée was to become a member of the Order of the Pelican, the Society’s highest service award. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Crespine’s mentor Master Philip White (also my mentor and friend), asked if I would make her an apron. When I queried him as to what sort of apron he envisioned, as there are many fine aprons one could make, he said he once saw an apron with piece work, white embroidery, and a laurel wreath with the pelican inside of it. He told me to let my creative license go. So after some research and consideration to Crespine’s persona of a 16th c. French noblewoman, I decided to make a fine white apron with a cutwork motif.

There was just one hitch—I’d not done cutwork before. I was familiar with the concept and I’ve done drawn thread work, but this was a step beyond. Nevertheless, I love to learn new fabric manipulation and embroidery techniques, so this wasn’t deterring me. Looking online, I could find examples of 16th century cutwork, but no comprehensive tutorials on how to actually reproduce it. I pieced bits together from two web sites ( and, which introduced the concept but did not go into great detail. I later found a few pages in Encyclopedia of Needlework by Donna Kooler (Leisure Arts, Inc., 2000). The book that really helped me was a 100-year-old book, The Priscilla Hedebo and Cutwork Book by Lilian Barton Wilson (1916), which is reprinted in the Cutwork, Hedebo, & Broderie Anglaise book edited by Jules & Kaethe Kliot (Lacis, 1992). The Cutwork book didn’t have step-by-step instructions, but it had plenty of notes that lead me in the right direction. After that, I learned by doing, which means trying, failing, and trying again until it worked and looked right.

The style of cutwork I learned is typically called French Richelieu cutwork, named after Cardinal Richelieu, who imposed a duty on all Italian imports and then brought lacemakers to France to teach the locals how to do it themselves. Cardinal Richelieu post-dates the Society’s time period by a few decades, but we know the technique existed in the 16th century and was in employ in Italy, France, and the Netherlands, among others. Cutwork pieces were highly prized amongst the royals and nobles throughout Western Europe—Mary Queen of Scots received cutwork as a New Years gift in 1556 and then later made her own “cutit out work” while she was imprisoned. England has sumptuary laws that restricted cutwork clothing and accessories to the rank of baron and above only. (For more historical information, see Needlework Through History: An Encyclopedia by Catherine Amoroso Leslie, 2007). Richelieu cutwork is characterized by freeform designs with buttonhole stitch bars the stabilize the areas of removed fabric.

Here are photos of the cutwork apron I made, and below them is a tutorial on how to create your own Richelieu cutwork piece.


The cutwork apron as may be worn


The laurel-pelican cutwork motif


The belt and the drawnwork hems of the apron

Mistress Crespine wearing her apron

Mistress Crespine wearing her apron


Richelieu Cutwork Tutorial


High quality linen, the tighter the weave the better (Note: I used 2 oz. white handkerchief linen [WLG 109] from Wm. Booth, Draper @ $32/yard. It is their finest linen, very tightly woven with tiny threads, and is not often in stock, so if you find it, get it. If you can’t get it, go for the 2.8 oz linen.)

White Linen thread 80/3 (available at

White silk thread (I used 1 strand of the 12 ply Splendor silk available at — I used cool white) -OR- white coton a border #25 (available at

A word about the threads—it is important to use the right kind. You need linen thread for the buttonhole bars—they must be strong and durable (cotton will fuzz and look messy). You could use the same linen thread for the buttonhole stitching around the motif, but it looks a bit rough. I preferred either the silk or the coton a border, with a slight preference for the coton a border.


Embroidery frame (I used a circular frame because it’s easier to hold in my hands, but you could also use a slate frame)

Small, sharp embroidery scissors (for example:

Small curved blade scissors (for example:

Water soluble pen

Good lighting and maybe magnifier glasses (if you are like me)


1. Iron your fabric. You’ll want to start with it as smooth as possible.

2. Create a pattern and trace it onto your fabric with the water soluble pen (test that pen first to make sure it comes off easily). DO NOT use a pattern printed on an inkjet printer and water soluble pen to trace over it — the liquid in the pen will cause some of the ink to come off onto your fabric. Go on, ask me how I know this. (I had to scrap my first yard of fabric because of this mistake.)


My pelican-in-a-laurel-wreath pattern

3. Put your marked fabric in a frame — pay attention to the tension of the fabric. Tight, but not too tight.

4. Outline your pattern using parallel running stitches set 1/8″ apart — I liked to sew along the inside edge of my markings and then along outside edge, and that usually put my two lines of stitching at about 1/8″ apart. Be careful not to pull these stitches tight, as that would pucker the fabric.


5. As you are outlining your pattern, whenever you reach a point where your pattern calls for a buttonhole bar, you should stitch the bar. To do this, bring your needle up between your parallel lines of running stitches and take it across to the parallel stitching on other side, over where the cutout area will be. Do this three times (so you have three threads going across) and then begin the detached buttonhole stitching over these three threads until you get back to your original side. It’s crucial to keep the buttonhole bar from twisting as you work it — I found the best way to do this was to work the buttonhole stitching toward me in a consistent manner, pulling the stitching tight as I went along. This video shows the stitch orientation/direction that I refer to:


6. Once your pattern is outlined and all your buttonhole bars in in place, you need to stitch around each element that will NOT be cut out. Stitch over the two parallel lines, usually you can align the bottom of your stitch with the bottom running stitch and the top of your stitch with the top running stitch. You’ll use the buttonhole stitch again for this, but in this case it is not detached and it’s important that the flat, corded edge of the buttonhole stitch is against the edge that will be cut out. Do not yet cut out any material — that will be done after you complete the buttonhole stitching. Again, do not pull too tightly — just pull enough to get clean, neat stitching. Do not be tempted to cut out material first thinking that will make for a cleaner edge — while the edge will be cleaner, but your stitched edges will ruffle and pucker, rather than lay flat, and it won’t look as good.


7. After your buttonhole stitching is complete, it’s time to cut out the areas of fabric that are stabilized by the buttonhole bars you placed in step 5. Using the sharp, straight blade scissors, carefully cut a line down the center of an area you want to cut out. Then turn the fabric over and use the curved blade scissors to VERY CAREFULLY cut the fabric away right up to the edge of the stitching. I recommend you keep your fabric in your frame as you cut to provide tension and a better view of what you’re doing. If you cut too close, you’ll snip the buttonhole threads and you’ll need to go back and mend them, so cut carefully. I did have to mend in a couple spots — it’s not easy to cut close, but not too close, with such dense threads and fabric. In the photo below, you can see areas where I haven’t managed to cut away all the threads of the fabric yet.


8. When done, dampen your fabric to remove any trace of the water soluble pen, then wash your piece by hand. Allow it to air dry. Inspect your piece for any stray bits of threads at the cut edges and snip them off carefully. Iron flat.



When creating your pattern, you want to place buttonhole bars every 1/2″ or so, as well as at the tips of pointy bits (or they’ll just flap about). Avoid bars across too large of a cutout area; instead, keep a small bit of fabric there or even an eyelet to stabilize things and give your bars a midpoint to anchor in.

Your buttonhole stitching (step 6) does not need to be really close together, and in fact, if you get it too close it tends to look sloppy. Try leaving just a thread’s width of space in between each stitch and from 10″ away it looks neater and just as smooth.

Pay attention to the thread as you pull it off the spool or skein, and thread your needle with it the same each time. Remember, thread has a twist and you want consistent results.

In the same vein, be sure to do all your buttonhole stitching in the same direction for a consistent look. It really does make a difference.


Apron Construction Notes

I chose to create a flat rectangle style apron (rather than one gathered into the waistband) so that the cutwork would be displayed to its best advantage. I attached the top 2/3 of it to a simple band that served as the belt.

I hemmed the top and bottom edges with the drawn thread work hemstitch (see my tutorial here).

The right and left edges had threads drawn from them as well, but I did not do the same drawnwork hemstitch — I just kept it as drawn threads because I liked the look.


Creation Notes

I did not embroider the blood droplet on the pelican, but I bled on the apron while stitching — so I think that still counts. -grin-

The heart at the top of the motif is from my device (a winged heart).

My soundtrack while working on this was the radio station on Fallout 4 (Gregor got it for Christmas and I sat on the couch while he played each evening) and the entire audiobook of The Martian.

I estimate this project took 110 hours. (I  Mistress Crespine.)


I would love to see anything you make — please share! I’m always happy to answer questions. Feel free to e-mail me at genoveva.von.lubeck (at) gmail [dot] com

14th c. Embriodered Bycocket Cap of Maintenance (with a Split Loop Seam Tutorial)

6 September 2015

Yesterday I presented a 14th c. embroidered bycocket cap of maintenance for Master Gregoire de Lyon on the occasion of his elevation to the Order of the Pelican. I am pleased with how the cap turned out and thus thought it would be a good idea to document it in my blog for future reference (both mine and possibly yours!). In particular, I learned a new seam technique and I want to record it here so I do not forget it. Here’s the completed cap of maintenance (or cap of high maintenance, as Master Gregoire calls it):


bycocket-Decretals-of-Gregory-IX-40vResearch: The bycocket, or chapel à bec as it was known in France, was all the rage in the 14th and 15th centuries in northwestern Europe, but it did continue on sporadically into the 16th century. The bycocket shows up frequently in imagery of the time period, but my favorite image is found in margin of The Decretals of Gregory IX c. 1300-1340 written in Southern France (page 40v). In the image, a man wears a red bycocket with a white lining. Another favored image with the same hat style and coloring appears in the 1344 painting “The Effects of Good Government in the Countryside” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (rider on the left, note that her brim may be decorated).

Construction: The shape of the bycocket looks more complicated than it is. It’s really just a bowl-shaped hat with the brim turned up at an angle. I used a wool felt bycocket that Gregoire already owned to fine-tune the size and shape, as that was his preference. The resulting pattern looks something like this:

bycocket-hat-patternMaterials: Dark red velvet (outside layer), white linen (inside layer), white linen canvas (interlining, for stiffness), wool batting (interlining, for shape), and white silk taffeta (outside brim layer). I used the canvas and wool batting to give the hat some solidity and structure. The order of layers from the outside to the inside is as follows: velvet, wool, canvas, linen. The silk taffeta was whip stitched onto the brim and only the brim in order to leave the white linen as the layer next to the hair (at Gregoire’s request), the thought being that it would be a touch cooler and easier to clean. Additional materials included silk embroidery floss (12 ply Splendor thread), silk sewing thread (Gutermann), and freshwater pearls.

Embroidery: Inspiration for the embroidered pelican came from the Pienza Cope, a richly-embroidered cape worn by Pope Pius II and currently housed in the Diocesan Museum in Pienza. The cope dates to 1310-1340 and features a beautifully embroidered orphrey (medieval pelican). Like the original inspiration, I used split stitch and couched silk in my embroidery, which are some of the stitches used in opus anglicanum style embroidery. And as I wanted the embroidery to feel fine and regal, I used just one ply of the 12-ply silk to work the stitches. This was time consuming (altogether the hat’s embroidery took about 40 hours), but the result was very rich looking. The overall design, with the three ermines and the lines that connect them came from Mistress Melisant, who quickly sketched it on a piece of scratch paper and it was — of course — perfect!!

pienza-cope-orphrey pelican-embroidery

Split Loop Stitch: Once the embroidery was completed on the silk taffeta, I had to attach it to the brim of the hat and I began considering a decorative stitch or trim along the top edge of the brim. Initially I planned to do a fingerloop braid, but I didn’t find a huge amount of evidence for it in the 14th century. But this lead to a seam technique used on 14th century bags that turned out to be perfect for this project. I found the stitching on an embroidered bag currently housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum (8313-1863). Master Richard studied this bag in person and notes this about the seam on his website: “The seams at the sides and around the mouth of the bag are covered/decorated with a double split stitch of dark red or purple silk and what appears to have been gilt floss … This decorative stitching is composed of two sections, each running up one side seam and around one edge of the opening. This can be seen illustrated in the second pattern sheet. How this decorative stitch was done is unknown.”

I recreated this decorative stitch using two long loops of silk thread and a single length of silk sewing thread, and the end result looks very much like the purse’s stitch. The resulting seam is practical and pretty. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Create two loops of silk thread in contrasting colors. The loops should be at least as long as the seam you wish to stitch, plus a little extra. For example, the brim length was 33″, so I cut silk thread lengths of 80″ to fold in half and knot, producing 40″ loops.

Step 2: Put the knots of the two loops between the two fabric sides where you wish to begin the seam. I sandwiched the knots in between the fabric, hiding them. Make sure your loops are not tangled in each other — you need the loops to move freely. Stitch the knots into place with a single length of silk sewing thread.


Step 3: Pull loop 2 through loop 1 and stitch loop 2 down, across the top of the loop 2.


Step 4: Repeat step 3, but this time pull loop 1 through loop 2 and then stitch down loop 1. Repeat steps 3-4 until you are done!

loop-stitch-step-fourHere’s a 14th century bag with this seam:

bag-seam From Victoria & Albert Museum (

Here’s my recreated split loop seam:


Finally, freshwater pearls were added on the top of the hat, inspired by this image of a beautiful recreation of 14th century bycocket.

And here is a photo by the talented Lady Daeg (called “Daye”) of Master Gregoire in his new cap of maintenance:


The gold silk cote was made by Mistress Giovanna, by the way — isn’t it beautiful?

If you have questions, please post them here or e-mail me at

Pennsic Classes and Handouts

27 July 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.12.48 AMWe’re just about to leave for Pennsic 44! Here are all the handouts we’ve prepared for our five classes this year at Pennsic — each one is in PDF format.






hand-cart gothic-chairs






Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.15.03 AMround-pavilion-sides-straight-template





Our classes are as follows:

Thursday, July 30

Pleatwork Apron Make-and-Take (Genoveva) – 10:00 am in A&S 12 – 2 hours

A hands-on, instructional class on smocking, or honeycomb pleatwork, the gathering method commonly seen in German Renaissance clothing (but also popular for hundreds of years throughout Europe). You will make your own apron to wear around camp in style! We’ll also discuss pleating in general as we work, and students can read my 30-page research paper on historical pleating techniques. Materials available for 10 people ($10), or bring your own medium-weight, WHITE linen (1 yard). Free handouts for 25.

Period Pavilion Papercraft (Alexander) -1:00 pm in A&S 6 – 1 hour

Come learn how pavilions (tents) were made historically using basic construction techniques. Students will make a paper craft pavilion in the shape of their choice to take back to their own camp. Please bring scissors appropriate to your age (no sewing will be done). Free templates.

Enhance Your Camp (Gregor) – 4:00 pm in Camp Cynnabar (W02) – 1 hour

Join us at our camp to learn about how to make personal camp improvements that can enhance both its appearance as well as your own quality of life. Most projects are made from wood with basic tools and do not require special knowledge, skills, or equipment. Handouts will be available for each camp project ($1/handout), including our camp cart, kitchen worktable, sink with foot pump, trestle table, benches, chairs, clothes rack, armor stand, and more.


Tuesday, August 4

Mastering Pleatwork: Advanced 16th Century Techniques (Genoveva) – 10:00 am – A&S 12 (1 hour)

Experienced pleatworkers are invited to join me to discuss advanced methods of creating and securing pleats used in 16th-century Europe. Includes a review of my in-depth research on imagery and techniques, as well as a variety of reproduction pleatwork to touch and feel. After I present my research and experimentation, I will open the floor for discussion and practice. Participants will also have an opportunity to practice some of the more complicated stitches if they wish. 50-page handouts for 10 ($3 each), materials for 5.


Wednesday, August 5

Drawn Work Handkerchief Make-and-Take (Genoveva) – 2:00 pm in A&S 3 (1 hour)

A hands-on, instructional class on drawn work, specifically the hemstitch, seen in German, Italian, and English Renaissance clothing and accessories. Participants will create their own handkerchief with a drawn work hem, and learn how to make more elaborate drawn work designs on their own. Materials available for 10 people ($1 fee requested), or bring your own medium-weight, white linen (12″ x 12″). Free handouts available for 25.


Hope to see you at Pennsic!

The Good German Armor Stand: How to Make a Portable, Folding Wood Armor Stand in Less Than Three Hours

22 July 2015

ArmorStandTitleAt our first Pennsic four years ago, we attempted our first armor stand. It was a bunch of 2x4s screwed into the semblance of an armor stand on site. Sadly, it couldn’t hold the full plate armor Gregor had brought with him and it had a tendency to fall over.

The next year at Pennsic, Gregor noticed Baron Jasen Irenfest’s gorgeous (and functional) armor stand and asked how he made it. It turns out Jasen’s armor stand was based on a 1990 article that appeared in Tournament Illuminated, “A Barbarian Armor Stand,” by Sir Timoch of Nordhem. So, armed with the plans and materials, we set out to make a Barbarian Armor Stand. We found Sir Timoch’s general design to be good, but made our own improvements to key design details, as well as corrected the material list and modified some instructions. We updated the original plans to our liking and present them here with steps and photos. Many thanks to Sir Timoch, wherever he may be, for the original idea!

Notes: These plans will produce a custom armor stand that will fold down for easy transport. It can be setup inside or outside, and optional stakes can be inserted in the base when used outside for windy conditions. The stand will support most parts of your armor, and, so far, is quite sturdy and stable. We’ve used the armor stand at Pennsic for two years, as well as at various events around the Middle Kingdom. It’s continuing to work great!


Armor Stand Materials:

  • Three 8-foot-long 2″x4″ lumber (currently $3.57 a piece from Lowes)
  • Eight 3-inch-long hinges (currently $2.17 per hinge from Lowes)
  • One bolt 3/8” x 31/2” long
  • One 3/8” wingnut (make sure it can screw onto the above bolt)
  • Two 3/8” x 11/2” washers (make sure hole is big enough to go over the neck of the bolt)
  • Eighteen 8d nails or 2 1/2″ wood screws
  • One small bottle of wood glue
  • One 18″ length of string
  • Optional: small cans of wood stain and polyurethane

Armor Stand Tools:

  • Hand saw or other cutting device like a mitre saw or jigsaw
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • 1/2” bit
  • 11/2” spade bit
  • Screwdriver
  • Measuring device (tape measure or yard stick)
  • Pencil
  • Gummy bears (okay, those are optional, but yummy!)

Armor Stand Instructions:

Step 1. Take the measurements of the person whose armor will hang on the stand. You need three measurements:

  • Crown to crotch
  • Hip to hip
  • Shoulder to shoulder

Step 2. Cut your 2x4s down to the following dimensions:

  • Cut one (1) at 28″ long (A)
  • Cut one (1) at 22″ long (B)
  • Cut two (2) at 23/4” long (C)
  • Cut two (2) at 36″ long (D)
  • Cut one (1) of your crown to crotch measurement, or 36″, whichever is shorter (E)
  • Cut two (2) of your hip-to-hip measurement less 1″ and then divided by 2 (we cut 2 at 6″ long) (F)
  • Cut two (2) of your shoulder-to-shoulder measurement less 1″ and then divided by 2 (we cut 2 at 9″ long) (G)
  • Cut two (2) joint boards at 8″ long (H)


Tip: If you intend to sand, stain, and/seal your armor stand, you may wish to do this now before you begin assembling it. It will be easier and the finished stand will look better if you complete sanding, staining, and/or sealing before assembly.

Good German Option: We recently bought a table saw with the ability to do angled cuts, so when Gregor made a second version of this armor stand recently he made fancy beveled edges. It looks sweet. If you want to do this, do it now, before assembly!


Step 3. Take board A, find the exact center of the board lengthwise, and drill a hole all the way through the board using the 1/2″ bit. On one side of this board, use the 11/2” spade bit to create a recess about 3/4” deep around the hole you just drilled. (This will accommodate your washer and wing nut.)


Step 4. Take board B, find the exact center of the board lengthwise, and drill a hole all the way through the board using the 1/2″ bit. On one side of this board, use the 11/2” spade bit to create a shallow recess (deep enough to accommodate your bolt tip and the other washer) around the hole you just drilled.


Step 5. Attach board A to board B using the bolt, washers, and wingnut. Note: You can choose to put the bolt downward or upward through the holes — what’s important is that hardware be recessed into the bottom of board B so that it can sit flat on the ground.


Bolt recessed into the bottom of board B.


Top of board A, with bolt and wingnut accessible.

Step 6. Apply wood glue to the underside of the two C boards and attach them to the ends of the A board, making sure that you can swivel and rotate the attached B board without hitting the C boards. Clamp and nail (or screw) C to A. These are now the feet of your armor stand.



Step 7: Attach a hinge between the end of board A and the end of one of your D boards. You’ll want to position the plates so that the hinge itself sits just beyond the edge of the boards — this allows you to fold it more compactly.


Step 8: Remove the pin from another hinge (insert a nail into the bottom hole of the hinge and hammer it down a bit to release the pin). Put the pin back into the hinge loosely, then repeat step 7 by attaching the hinge between the other end of board A and the second board D.


Removing the hinge pin


Hinge with pin removed

Step 9: Remove the pin again from the same hinge as in step 7 and tie a piece of string around the pin, then attach the string to board A. This ensures you never loose that pin. Re-insert the pin for now and set this assembly aside.

Step 10: Now that you have the base and two legs assembled, lay them flat on the ground and place board E (the torso board) in between at the top, flanked on either side by the H boards (joint boards). Lay them in a position relative to the legs as though it were all set up. Do not mount or attach hinges to boards E or H yet, but check their placement to insure no other screws will block the pre-drilled holes in the hinge plates. Now mark on the H joint boards the appropriate angle where the legs meet the H boards. A typical angle is 24°, but yours may vary if you significantly changed the measurements of your boards or with the placement of your hinges.

IMG_7059 IMG_7060 IMG_7061

Step 11: Cut the joint boards (H) at the angle you determined in step 10 and attach them to the bottom of board (E).


Step 12: Attach the hinges to the joint boards (H). Make sure that when everything comes together that it fits snugly — if it is too loose, your armor stand will have a tendency to sway. Do not yet attach the other side of those hinges to your leg boards — it’ll be easier if you do that at the end.


Step 13: Attach the hinges between the hip boards (F) and the torso board (E), making sure to test fit them first. Leave about a 1/4″ between the F hip board and the H joint board, allowing the F board to fold down without being obstructed.


Step 14: Attach the hinges between the shoulder boards (G) and the torso board (E).


Step 15: Now finally attach the hinges at the joint boards (H) to the leg boards (E).


Step 16: Fold down your armor stand to make sure it folds neatly. If the bolt gets in the way of folding, as shown in the photo below, you may wish to drill a small recess in one of the leg boards so it folds flatter.

IMG_7089  IMG_7091


Voila! You have an armor stand.


Gregor’s armor stand made in 2012


The armor stand Gregor made for Baron Ermenrich in 2015

Optional: Consider putting holes in the baseboards so you can stake it to the ground in windy weather. You may also want to add holes in the hip boards or shoulder boards if you have things you need to need to hang from your stand.

If you have questions, please let us know! The armor stand will be on display, along with handouts on how to make it, at Gregor’s “Enhance Your Camp” class on Thursday, July 30 at 4:00-5:00 pm, located in Camp Cynnabar (W02). Here’s the actual class description:

“Join us at our camp to learn about how to make personal camp improvements that can enhance both its appearance as well as your own quality of life. Most projects are made from wood with basic tools and do not require special knowledge, skills, or equipment. Handouts will be available for each camp project ($1/handout), including our camp cart, kitchen worktable, sink with foot pump, trestle table, benches, chairs, clothes rack, armor stand, canvas organizer, and more.”

SCA Artisan Love: THL Helena Sibylla (+ Cloth Button Tutorial)

23 April 2015

[This is the eighth in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]


The infamous gingerbread


It all begins with gingerbread. I met Helena almost exactly four years ago at the first SCA event I attended after my return to the SCA. Well, at least I know she was there, because honestly the whole event was a bit of a blur for me. The reason I know she was there was because the Baroness of Cynnabar — whom I had also just met — enthused at great length about some amazing “documentably period” gingerbread that Helena had entered in the Arts & Sciences competition and for which she had won a first place. The obvious pride the Baroness displayed for this “Helena” person made me think, “Wow! She must be really talented! I want to do something cool like that one day , too.” It’s the little things that make a big difference.


THL Helena Sibylla does indeed make a big difference, for me and for many others her arts and service touch. Helena’s interests and talents are varied — most already know of her calligraphy and illumination, and many of us have been the recipients of one of her lovely scrolls (including myself—she made my Willow scroll). She also sews, embroiders, weaves (tablet and inkle), and makes clothing for herself and her husband.  She’s also well known for her gorgeous silk banners and her delicious baked treats (gingerbread is just one of the recipes in her book).


One of Helena’s recent tablet-weaving projects

One of the things I enjoy most about Helena’s art is just how much she makes things for other people. She’s currently working on embroidering the Pennsic 44 favors (as seen elsewhere on my blog) and has already made six herself. She paints banners for several baronies and creates heraldic patches for the Order of the Rose cloak. She bakes treats and makes largesse and creates all those scrolls. She just generally gives away much of her art. I commend her highly for her generosity and we are all so much better for it!


Just two of the patches Helena has made for the Rose Cloak

She’s learned much of what she knows because of her participation in the SCA over the past ten years. A basic calligraphy class was one of her first SCA classes ever! And although she’s been cooking and doing embroidery since she was young, she’s learned much more about historical cooking and embroidery techniques because of the SCA. She’s driven to do and make things. When I asked what inspired her, she said, “I like to have something to keep my hands and mind busy and I like to have project goals to work toward. I really enjoy learning about the history of the crafts, objects, and techniques.  I like the process of making things and the satisfaction that comes from challenging myself to learn something new and completing a project!”


Helena’s 14th century embroidered pouch

Helena has created many wonderful artifacts, so when I asked her to choose her favorite, it was a tough question to answer. Eventually she settled on her 14th century embroidered pouch she made for the Arts & Sciences Competition in A.S. 46 (2012).  She explained, “This was my first entirely hand-sewn item and I’m really satisfied with the way it turned out.” I remember this pouch well, as it was in the same competition in which I entered my first two entries and I was quite in awe of it.
She is no stranger to the A&S competitions, having entered and received excellent scores several times. Of late, she has been judging more often than entering, but I have hopes she will take on the challenge of a Pentathlon in the coming years. And it should come as no surprise to hear that Helena has been honored as the Barony of Andelcrag’s Baronial Arts and Sciences Champion. She is also a member of the Order of the Evergreen.
While Helena is not apprenticed to a Laurel, she is a protége to Master Straum von Bairzog — he and his lady, Baroness Ute von Munchen, are well aware of her varied interests in the Arts & Sciences. In the Quest she received from Master Straum, she has been charged with learning a new skill and teaching it to others. I’m looking forward to what she might be able to teach us next! Be sure to keep an eye on her blog,, for news on her upcoming projects. This is also where you’ll find many photos and reports on past projects, including the recipe for the infamous gingerbread.
Helena will be teaching her Introduction to Brick Stitch Embroidery class at Andelcrag Althing this weekend.  She will also likely be teaching at least one class at Pennsic this year, probably the Self-Stuffed Button-Making class. If you can’t make it to her Pennsic class, however, she’s kindly provided us with a tutorial on how to make these historically accurate buttons!


Helena’s Self-Stuffed Cloth Button Tutorial

The steps for making a self-stuffed cloth button are simple, but the process does require some dexterity.  You should be able to do some very basic hand sewing with needle and thread.

Step 1 – Cut Fabric Circles. You will need to experiment with the fabric you want to use to see what size circles are needed to make the finished size button you want.  Thinner fabrics will crush more and require a larger circle to make a bigger button, while heavier fabrics like wool or corduroy will crush less so you can start with a smaller circle.  Use whatever you like to make circles the right size.

Step 2 – Stitch Around. With a needle and thread, make a running stitch around the circle of fabric  about one-third of the way in from the edge.  Use a thread heavier than regular sewing thread – you want something that won’t break when you pull firmly. There are several varieties of heavyweight or button thread available.  The Gutermann brand makes a heavyweight thread that comes in a wide variety of colors so you can coordinate with your fabric.  Finish so that the needle is on what will be the right side of the fabric.

Step 3 – Draw It Up. Use the thread to pull in the edges of the circle – make a little drawstring hat for your finger! Pull carefully so you don’t drag the knot through the fabric as you go. Work the fabric around as you’re pulling so the gathers are roughly even. This doesn’t have to be perfect – you’ll be able to even things out in a later step.

Step 4 – Tuck It In. Flip the gathered circle over, keeping slight tension on the thread so the gathering doesn’t come undone. Pull gently on the thread and at the same time, start tucking the raw edges of the circle into the gathered center, working all the way around as you go. This is what creates the stuffing for the button. As you work, keep tension on the thread to help the edges stay tucked. Keep tucking until all the raw edges are pushed into the center of the stitching.

Step 5 – Pull It Together. Once you have all the edges tucked in, gently pull the thread tightly to draw the button closed.

Step 6 – Stitch It Up. Now is your chance to lock everything together and adjust the shape of the button. With the gathered side of the button up, push the needle through from one side to the other and draw it tight. Do this at intervals around the button, keeping close to the bottom, gathered edge.

As you stitch, the button will pull together more tightly and become firmer.

Step 7 – Shape Up! Flip the button over and check the shape. If it’s not quite as round as you would like or if there’s a little bit sticking out oddly, it can be adjusted. Here you can see my needle pointing at a funny little bulge on one side of the button.


To fix this, flip the button back over and make a stitch through the area sticking out to pull it in toward the center.


Presto! The odd corner disappears!


Do this anywhere you need to adjust the shape of the button until it’s as round as you like. These stitches will also help make the button more firm and solid to feel

Once the button is the shape you want, draw the thread to the center on the bottom side and knot it. Leave the tail of thread for attaching the button to your garment when it’s ready and your button is done!


Buttons, glorious buttons!


Call for Cynnabar Members to Make Favors for Pennsic!

16 March 2015


[As my Barony's A&S Champion, I have been asked to coordinate the making of at least 25 favors for this year's Pennsic War. Below is my call to action for my fellow members of Cynnabar!]

Pay heed, good gentles of the Barony of Cynnabar, for we have been charged with a task by Princess Arabella. Her Highness requests that we make 25 favors for the coming war at Pennsic. The design, pictured here, symbolizes the joining of forces between the Midrealm and the East to take over Aethelmearc. To help our populace answer Her Highness’ call, I have prepared kits with the right size linen, good amounts of floss, and an embroidery needle. I also have embroidery hoops for anyone who needs one. Favor Kits will be available at the weekly business meetings starting tonight, as well as at Sunday practices and our Spring Revel. To encourage the productivity of the favors, I will reward the Cynnabar member who makes the most favors by the day of Coronation (May 2) with a hat or cap of their choosing, made by me. If you are new to embroidery, this is a simple piece and I am happy to teach you how to do it. Any straight stitch, such as outline, stem, or chain, works well. I made this first favor with an outline stitch with just one evening’s work. Please let me know are able to help by posting here, emailing me, or speaking to me at one of the above-mentioned places.

Here is the instruction sheet I am including with the favor kits: favor-kit-directions


How to Embroider the Favors

For those who are new to embroidery, here is a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to embroider these:

1. Take your kit and a pair of scissors to a comfortable spot with good light. If you don’t have a kit, check the favor-kit-directions for the list of items you need.


2. Put your material in the embroidery frame. First loosen the thumbscrew on the outer circle. Then push the inner circle out of the frame and put it under your design, centered. Then place the outer circle of the frame on top of your material, centered over the bottom circle, and push them together. Tighten the thumbscrew.




3. Take your embroidery floss and cut off a length about 18″ long. Note that you can use ALL six strands of the floss together, or you can divide the strands so that it is thinner (as shown in the photo below). I personally like how bold it looks with the full floss (all six strands) and I have NOT divided mine into fewer strands for this tutorial. You may do as you please.


4. Thread your embroidery needle, pulling about 5″ of the floss through the thread. Tie a knot at the end.



5. Now let’s learn a simple, period embroidery stitch: the Back Stitch. Hold your embroidery frame in one hand, and, with your dominant hand, push the needle up from the back of the material to the front so that it comes out on the outline of your traced pattern on the fabric (as shown in the photo below).


6. Push the needle up and out and pull the thread through the material until it is stopped by the knot.


7. Push your needle back down into the fabric about 1/8″1-/4″ away.


8. Pull the thread down through the fabric until your thread lies flat. Do not over pull, as that will place too much tension on the fabric.


9. Push your needle up from the back of the material to the front about 1/8″-1/4″ ahead of the stitch you just made.


10. Push your needle down into the material back at the very same point you came up in step 6. This is the back stitch, which is ideal for following both smooth and complicated outlines like those in our pattern.


11. Continue like this along the line of your pattern. Once you feel comfortable, you can simplify and speed up the stitching by doing both the pushing in and out of the needle through the fabric at the same time, as shown in the photo below. As you can see, I pushed the needle in at the end of the preceding stitch and immediately came back up along my pattern line ahead of the thread.


12. You can do the back stitch around corners easily — just make the corner the start/stop of your stitch, as I’ve done in my next stitch here:


13. Keep going until you have only a few inches of thread left. Push your needle in and pull it through to the back of the fabric.



14. Flip your frame over and weave the needle (with the floss still threaded in its eye) through the stitches nearby. You want to go between the stitched floss and the fabric. Do this several times.



15. Once your floss is securely woven into the stitches on the back, unthread your needle and cut off the tail. Go ahead and cut off the tail of the knot on the other end of stitching, too.


When you’re done, the photo below shows what it looks like on the back of your fabric. Simple, neat, and secure.


16. Now just go back to step 5 and repeat until you’ve stitched along all the lines in your pattern! There are two other stitches that I think work well for this pattern: outline stitch and chain stitch — if you want to learn how to do these, let me know and I’ll take photos for you. When you are all done, mist your fabric with water or dampen it slightly to remove the blue pen lines.

17. With your blue lines gone, iron your embroidered fabric until it is nice and flat.  The material can now go back in the bag and you can give it to me (Genoveva) for sewing!


How to Sew the Favors

If you are finishing these favors yourself, here’s what you do:

1. Fold the fabric in half along the vertical center line, wrong side out.

2. Sew 1⁄2” seam down and press open so that the seam is centered.

3. Sew a 1⁄2” seam along the bottom edge.

4. Sew the seams a second time to reinforce edges.

5. Clip corners and turn right side out.

6. Iron flat. The image should now sit 1” above the bottom hem and 1⁄2” from each side.

7. Fold the top SA inside and stitch closed. You should now have a 5” x 12” rectangle.

8. Fold 3” down the back and stitch, forming the belt loop.


If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to ask.

SCA Artisan Love: Lady Amie Sparrow (+ German Cape Tutorial)

8 October 2014

[This is the seventh in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]

Those of us who study a particular topic or era, as I do, come to identify certain individuals as role models. Amie Sparrow is one of my role models in 16th century German costuming. Several years ago I found Amie online through her blog, where she posts dress diaries, research notes, and period images that inspire her. I find her information valuable and have tried to follow her example through my own blogs. And I believe I have shown considerable restraint in waiting until my seventh article in this series to focus on her and her wonderful adventures in 16th century Germany. But I digress … let me tell you about Amie!

Lady Amie Sparrow is a costumer and embroiderer from the Kingdom of Atlantia. Amie has been sewing nearly all of her life—at the tender age of 5 she made herself a skirt for Kindergarten—and began researching and making costumes in the SCA about 11 years ago. Her favorite thing to do is make clothing no one else — to her knowledge –has tried to reproduce before, which is an impressive feat in this day of blogs and digital photos. “It’s an intellectual challenge and a technical challenge at the same time,” Amie tells me. “The whole ‘experimental archaeology’ thing is really, really fun for me. When I make an outfit using period materials in a period way and discover that I am comfortable and warm enough when wearing the outfit, I’ve met my goal. And of course, when someone remarks that I look like I’ve walked out of a painting, it makes my day!


Many of Amie’s images do indeed look like she’s walked out of painting. So it should come as no surprise that the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History itself asked Amie to create two early 17th century blackwork coifs for an archaeological exhibit. Now that is an arts and sciences project! Amie’s coifs were fully documented and the exhibit opened in May 2013. As far as I am concerned, being asked by a museum to reproduce an artifact is a penultimate achievement for a costumer! Amie tells me making these coifs was the most fun she’s had working on a project to date, and she notes that the Smithsonian found her because she posted a photo of one of her embroidered coifs online (if this isn’t a good reason for everyone to share their projects online, I don’t know what is).


Amie has made a lot more than coifs, though. Her favorite projects to date have been her German leather and velvet purses, a 1527 Gotha peasant dress, and her first sweet bag. My personal favorites are her 1577 Nuerenberg Gown and her array of German Woman’s Gollers, which you can learn to make yourself in the goller tutorial (see below).


Amie teaches often. Of late, she’s been teaching German Peasant Garb classes, which is a topic in sore need of attention! She says, “I was asked to teach that topic a couple of months ago for The Shire of Isenfir so they could learn about German peasant clothing for their Gemütlichplatz event. I found that I could talk for two hours without a break on German peasant clothing.” For Pennsic next year, she’d like to teach a make-and-take class on German purses. Amie’s next project will be to make a new dress based on artwork by Freydal for Crown Tournament. And as the former Mistress of St. Anne’s Guild of Clothiers, she is running a Garb Triathlon at Atlantian Crown Tournament in November. Other items in the works are a research paper on German clothing, a woodcut with accompanying documentation, and possibly a pair of leather shoes. Sounds deliciously ambitious!

So what inspires Amie? She has many friends in the SCA who inspire her with their quest for knowledge and authenticity. When pressed for names, Amie says, “Chiefest among the German researchers/costumers are Mistress Sophia Kress, Mistress Katrine De Saint Brieuc, Baroness Emma West, Herrin Genefe Wolflien and you. Truly, I get inspired by a lot of people. If someone is making cool stuff, I want to know that person.” It will come as to surprise, Dear Reader, that Amie inspires me. I asked her for her words of wisdom, so I could pass them on, and this is what she told me, “Have No Fear! To paraphrase Frank Herbert: Fear is the A&S killer. Many people psych themselves out of participation because they think that their work is not good enough. Well, I’m here to tell you, there’s always somebody who is going to be better than you, so don’t worry about how good you are. It’s a waste of time. Enjoy what you do. Base your A&S in some kind of research and show off your efforts. If you don’t try, you don’t learn. Want to know what I do with my A&S failures? I keep them. I wear them. I use them as examples in classes.” Well said, Amie! Her favorite quote about artists is attributed to both Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” If you see something you want to make, then make it. You will succeed. All you have to do is try.

Amie lives far away from me within the Barony of Stierbach in the Kingdom of Atlantia, though I had the good fortune to meet her in person at Pennsic 42. She is apprenticed to Master Tristan Alexander and a protege of Mesterinde Karen Larsdatter. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Atlantian Order of the Pearl which honors and recognizes those subjects who have distinguished themselves by their efforts and their excellence in the arts and sciences of the period and/or their willingness to teach those same arts and sciences (this is a grant-level award, roughly equivalent to the Midrealm Order of the Evergreen). I’ve always been surprised that Amie is not a member of the Order of the Laurel yet, and I hope to see her so honored in the near future. Amie has a high standard of excellence and she frequently applies her knowledge for the instruction of the Society at large through her classes, guild, and writings.


German Woman’s Goller (Capelet) Tutorial

goller-tutorial12As I mentioned, Amie’s gollers are one of my favorite things she’s made. A goller is the German word for “yoke,” and as a clothing element it refers to a variety of styles, such as very short capes worn on top of clothing, vests worn both in and out of the clothing (i.e. partlets). For this tutorial, we’re using goller to mean a short cape worn by women in 16th c. German images. If you’d like to learn more about gollers, please read my more in-depth article on German Gollers at which I’ll be posting in a few days (along with a cross-post of this tutorial).

What You Need to Make a Woman’s Goller:

  • 30″ x 30″ muslin or other inexpensive fabric to make a test goller
  • 30″ x 30″ outer fabric (more if you need to match patterns), such as wool, damask, velvet, or linen
  • 30″ x 30″ lining, such as a wool, linen, or fur (fur goes on the inside to retain warmth)
  • 30″ x 30″ contrast fabric for trim, such as a wool or velvet (optional)
  • scissors, needle, thread, pins, ruler, chalk
  • clasp or ties to keep your goller closed
  • pattern (here’s two — one at size 10/12 and another at size 16/18): goller-pattern.pdf


How to Make a Woman’s Goller:

1. (Optional) Using the pattern, cut out two fronts and one back from your muslin. Stitch together along the indicated areas on the pattern and try it on. Adjust as necessary. Also pay attention to the line of the shoulder, as you may need to adjust the curve there so that your shoulders fit inside. Modify your pattern as necessary.


2. Using your customized pattern, cut out two fronts and one back from both your outer fabric and your lining. I used a rose damask for my outer fabric, and thus needed extra fabric to match the patterns nicely. My inside fabric is a slightly fulled dark red wool.

Cutting out the outer fabric

Cutting out the outer fabric

Cutting out the inside fabric (wool)

Cutting out the inside fabric (wool)

My outer and inner fabrics

My outer and inner fabrics, pinned and ready for sewing.

3. Sew your outer fabric pieces together along the orange dotted lines on the pattern. You could do a simple seam and press open, or a flat-felled seam (which is likely to be more period). I would avoid a French seam, however, as I think it would produce too much bulk at the shoulder. Repeat with the lining fabric. Do not yet sew the outer fabric to the lining.

4. (Optional) If your outer fabric will have any guards (trim), now is the time to add it. Don’t try to attach a straight line of fabric and curve it — rather, lay the sewn outer fabric on top of your trim fabric, smoothing it flat as much as possible, outline it with calk on your trim fabric and cut out the same basic shape from the trim fabric. Now cut the guards from the shaped trim fabric in even strips—I cut 3.5 inches from the bottom guard followed by 2.5 inches for the narrower guard. I used the remaining fabric to cut 3.5″ x 11″ strips for the two side guards.

Placing and pinning the guards

Placing and pinning the guards

5. (Optional) If you cut guards in the previous step, sew them on now. To do this, I first pinned the narrow guard into place using a ruler to make sure I was at a consistent distance from the bottom, then I sewed the top edge down, folded it over, pinned it, and sewed it down by hand in small, neat backstitches. The bottom guard’s top edge was sewn down, flipped over, and pinned (but not yet sewn). I did the same thing for the two side guards — sew, flip over, pin, but not sew.

Sewing down a guard

Sewing down a guard

6. (Optional) If you are using ties rather than cloak clasps, you’ll want to pin them in place now so that they are sewn in when you do the next step.

7. Now you attach the outer fabric to the lining, right sides together, along the blue dotted line on the pattern. I start sewing at the bottom of one side, sew up to the collar, sew around the collar, go down the other side, and sew roughly 1/3 of the way around the bottom curve. Then I went back to the other side and sewed another 1/3 around the bottom curve from the other direction, leaving 1/3 in the center back bottom unsewn (the red dotted line on the pattern). I then clipped the corners (to avoid bulk at them), turned the goller right side out, smoothed all my corners and edges, and ironed it flat.


8. To finish sewing the outer fabric to the lining at that open edge in the back, fold each raw fabric edge along the red dotted line inside to create a nice seam, pin, and sew together using a blind stitch. When you’re done, remove the pins and iron to make sure it’s all nice and flat.


9. If you’re using cloak clasps, sew them on securely now with doubled or extra strong thread. Be sure to sew through all layers of fabric for a better drape and fit.


Finished goller

Finished goller

Time Spent: If you make a goller without guards, you can make this in under an hour. The guards add another hour or two, depending on how fancy you get with them.

Here’s me in my new goller at Red Dragon — it was 45°F and the wool goller kept me feeling quite comfortable! Many thanks to Amie for the wonderful pattern!


SCA Artisan Love: THL Sayyidah Asalah al-Hina (+Henna Tutorial)

27 September 2014

[This is the sixth in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]


I write to you from a place of deep relaxation and contentment, put there by the amazing Asalah …. despite the fact that she is many miles away. How is this possible? I just applied her magical henna that smells sweetly of earthy lavender. It’s all over my hand, swirling in big hearts, exotic flowers, and adorable curly-qs. I feel light and happy and loved. I had no idea henna was so magical, and I may not ever have known had it not been for Asalah.

THL Sayyidah Asalah al-Hina (formerly known as Anabel de Berchelai) is an avid student of the Safavid period of Persia, making her a fellow 16th century enthusiast. Asalah is best known in our Society for her henna research and application, which she’s been doing for more than eight years now. She also enjoys making clothing and accessories, and in fact this year’s Kingdom A&S project were two pair of sock-boots.


When I asked Asalah why she does what she does, she told me, “I am inspired by many people and things, but my greatest inspiration is researching and documenting arts that, as of yet, have had little to no recognition.” I love this! It’s one thing to go down a well-worn path, but yet another to blaze a new one. She says this is what she loves most about her craft because “being a forerunner in research and experimentation really motivates me to do and try new things.”

Her favorite project so far isn’t so much a created thing as a living thing. She is growing a henna plant, from which she’s created her own paste. She was able to compare her fresh henna against that of store-bought, which is what nearly every is using these days.


In addition to her three Kingdom A&S first place awards in 2012, 2013, and 2014, Asalah is the recipient of the Order of the Evergreen. She is apprenticed to Duchess Rebekah MacTiernan. Asalah makes her home in the Barony of Roaring Wastes in the region of Pentamere within the Middle Kingdom. You can see more of Asalah’s projects and photos at her blog at


Henna 101 Tutorial

IMG_7170This year at Pennsic I took Asalah’s Henna 101 class, and from this class I’ve made this simple tutorial. It turns out that applying henna had an easier point of entry than I initially believed. Here’s how to do it:

1. Prepare some henna paste and put it in a small cone. Asalah had already done this for her students, but she gave us this information on how to do it: As henna recipes and practices were handed down generation to generation, the basic recipe has probably not changed too much since medieval times. The basic ingredients include henna powder (dried and crushed leaves of the  Lawsonia inermis plant), something acidic to release the plant’s dyes (lemons and limes were found to be used in period), and something sweet and sticky to help the paste stay on the skin (honey was the most common and readily available sweetener in the SCA time period). Essential oils that contain monoterpene alcohols are added to help bring out the dye as well as make the paste smell good!

A basic henna recipe

  • Henna powder (Jamila brand is recommended and does not need sifting)
  • Lemon juice
  • Essential oils (Lavender, Tea Tree, Cajeput are all mild and work well — I recommend lavender for its soothing and relaxing scent PLUS it’s been scientifically proven that men are attracted by the smell of lavender… mmhmm)
  • Sugar (table sugar, sugar substitute, honey)

In a glass, ceramic or plastic bowl mix together 20grams (about ¼ cup) henna powder and ¼ cup lemon juice. Stir with plastic or wooden spoon as metal may react to the acidity in the lemon juice. The paste should be thick, about the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes. Cover with plastic wrap (push wrap down over surface of henna so it is mostly airtight and add a second layer of wrap over the bowl). Let the paste sit in a warm area (70-80 degrees F) for 8-12 hours. Add 1-1 ½ tsp. of essential oils and about 1 ½ tsp. of sugar. Use a little less if using honey. Stir until smooth, cover again with plastic wrap and let sit again for another 8-12 hours, or until dye release. The surface of the paste will turn brown when it has achieved dye release. Stir in enough lemon juice, a drop or 2 at a time, until the consistency you would like is reached, similar to that of yogurt. Cone or bottle henna and use within 2-3 days or refrigerate up to a week or 2, freeze up to a year.

IMG_1335Mixing the paste

IMG_7165Mylar plastic with which to make a cone

Important Note: Do not ever use a product called “black henna” — these may contain chemical additives that can cause serious and permanent damage to your skin.

2. Wash the area you intend to apply henna to clear it of dirt and oils. If you’re not near a sink, an alcohol swab will do (that’s what came in Asalah’s kit). I prepared my left hand.


3. Cut off a very small bit of the tip of the cone. The smaller the hole in the cone, the finer you can apply the paste and get more details.


4. Hold the cone like you would a pencil. Apply light pressure at the base to squeeze a small amouny. Practice tracing patterns on a sheet of paper first.


5. Touch the henna to your skin and slowly squeeze the cone as you move. I found I had the best results when I kept the cone lightly against my skin and went carefully and fast enough that the paste did not bunch up. I recommend you start a design in the middle of your area and work outward — that worked best for me.

IMG_7753I started with a modest little heart.

IMG_7754Then I added some curly-qs inside the heart.

IMG_7757And then a peacock!

henna-outsideI had so much fun I kept going and ended up with this!

henna-insideI still had henna left in the cone, so I went for broke and did the inside of my hand, too!


IMG_7167I wasn’t able to photograph myself applying it, but here is a student at Asalah’s class putting on her henna.

6. Once your henna has dried to the touch, but is not yet crackling and falling off, seal it with a lemon/sugar mixture. I mixed one tablespoon of sugar with one tablespoon of lemon juice, microwaved it for 30 seconds, then allowed it to cool. Then I lightly dabbed the henna with a cotton swab.

IMG_7758Mix equal parts sugar and lemon juice to make the sealer

IMG_4456My sealed design on my hand

7. Now let your henna paste stay on for as long as you can. (I am currently typing this article one-handed as my henna paste is still on). So far its been on for 2.5 hours, which is reallythe minimum. If you can, keep it on for 6 hours. You can leave it on overnight if you wrap it in some tissue.

8. When you’re ready, the paste can be scraped off. Do not wash it off and avoid contact with water for 12-24 hours, as getting the stain wet too soon may prevent it from darkening fully. It should darken into a reddish brown over the next 24-48 hours — to protect it, you can apply a thin layer of vegetable-based oil or beeswax-based balm before showering or bathing.

handThe reddish-brown stain of a henna application will last for 7-10 days if properly cared for

Tip: You can apply henna to wood, fibers, and hair, too!

henna-silk-fanAsalah’s silk fan with henna

Organizing SCA Recruitment Events: Preparations, Printables, and People!

24 September 2014

To My Fellow Chatelaines and My Most Esteemed Successor,

This is my third year as our baronial chatelaine and it’s getting about time for me to make way for another to serve our newcomers and our barony. In my three years, I’ve learned a great deal about being a chatelaine, and specifically about organizing recruitment events. Before I go, I thought it would be good to write up a little “procedures” on organizing recruitment events for new and aspiring chatelaines. I’ve tried to be specific for my successor(s) as well as general so that these procedures can be applied to recruitment events throughout the Kingdom and beyond. Please feel free to ask me any questions—I will always be a chatelaine, officeholder or not.

Chatelaine for the Mighty Barony of Cynnabar


Organizing SCA Recruitment Events: Preparations, Printables, and People!

An SCA recruitment event, also known as a “demo,” is many things: a social gathering, a demonstration of what we love about our Society, and an event in its own right. As its organizer, you are a recruiter, planner, and autocrat, all tied up with a smile and a bow. The recruitment event serve to promote the SCA in your community as well as bring together potential newcomers with members of your group. It’s an opportunity for great things — and relationships — to begin.

In my barony, I organize four types of recruitment events:

  1. Community events and demonstrations (i.e., Saline Celtic Festival and Ann Arbor Public Library)
  2. Student-oriented recruitment festivals (i.e., Festifall, Northfest, and Winterfest)
  3. Stand-alone focused recruitment events (i.e., Cynnabar Mass Meeting)
  4. Casual meetings (i.e., Newcomer Workshops)

All four types of events have three things in common: preparations beforehand so it’s well organized, printed materials to promote and educate, and people to both demonstrate and to attend. You can use these “Three Ps” to organize every recruitment event. Let me walk you through how I do it using the Mass Meeting event we held last night as example:

Preparation for a Recruitment Event

The Cynnabar Mass Meeting is a stand-alone recruitment event held on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, and thus it is focused toward students at the University of Michigan, but it welcomes everyone in the community who may be interested in joining us.

9-12 months before – Find a place and date for your event! Rooms for a September event at U of M should ideally be booked nine months in advance (January/February) for best pick. If you’re looking for place, this is not dissimilar from finding an event site, and should be done far in advance. Check your local libraries and parks for free or low-cost event sites. Pay attention to the size and convenience of your venue. If you want to attract students, make sure it’s easily accessible; if you want to attract families, make sure there is plenty of parking.

Important: Be familiar with the SCA Demo Policy: In order to be covered by SCA insurance, demos must be approved by the sponsoring group’s Seneschal. In Cynnabar, this means we bring the demo up at a meeting to see if the group wants to support it, and if so, we approve it. Be sure you give yourself enough time to bring it before your group and have it approved.

4 months before: Request any necessary support from your group. That may be going through your approval process for the demo, or it may be requesting funds for brochures or other printed materials. Also, if you need a special insurance certificate from the SCA to provide to your site’s owner, now’s the time to request it to avoid any extra fees. (Here’s information on SCA insurance, and here’s an example of a letter I sent to request a certificate: CelticFestInsuranceCertReq2014.)

3-6 months before – Put your event out there! I add it to our baronial calendar, add it to our list of demos and events at our group’s web site, and create a Facebook event page for it. I also post a “Save the Date” notice to my group’s mailing list and Facebook page, and mention it at our meetings to maintain awareness of it. Why? I’ll talk about it a bit more later, but your PEOPLE are important, and your people need to know about it and plan to attend well in advance.

Note: If you’re thinking about having any sort of audio-video presentation at your demo, such as a video, now’s the time to start thinking and planning for it. Our group brought up the idea of a recruitment video in June, so we were able to get footage at Pennsic to make the video itself in August. I was able to make the video over a weekend, but my superpower is speed and that may not be yours — give yourself lots of time to work on it! Here’s our video:

At least 3 months before: Invite, invite, invite! You need people at your event and they won’t magically appear just because you scheduled a demo — you must invite them, repeatedly. Remember, it takes about seven impressions for someone to fully register what the SCA is and why they might want to get involved. Here’s how we invited people:

  1. Mentioned Mass Meeting in every communication with a new person, and encouraged them to attend
  2. Passed out colorful Mass Meeting flyers at our student recruitment fairs (Festifall and Northfest)
  3. Taped up Mass Meeting flyers on boards around campus and the community
  4. Asked members of my group to invite their friends and family
  5. Make notes and reminders to the Facebook event page to help remember
  6. Sent personal e-mails to every newcomer inviting them (two weeks before)
  7. Sent reminder e-mails to every newcomer (two days before)

Note: The invitation to attend the recruitment event can be “sweetened” by asking for RSVPs in exchange for a little gift. Last year I gave out canvas drawstring bags in Midrealm colors to anyone who RSVPed; this year we gave personalized, illuminated scrolls (more on that later). Having a reward for RSVPing helps them commit and attend!


1 month before: Determine what you can demonstrate. I may have a general idea in advance (like if we have room for a fighting demo), but I usually save the details until I get closer and have a better idea of who is attending. I should also note that I do not sweat the little details — I trust my group to bring awesome things to show and demonstrate. Mostly I look for an overview and try to cover the main things that our group excels at (combat, archery, A&S, heraldry, dance, and music). Because we had room for a dance demo in addition to fighting demos, I specifically enlisted the help of our dance mistress in organizing the dance and music folk. I also specifically enlist our group marshals to organize fighting demos (this year I live with our armored group marshal, so easy peasy). This year’s RSVP gift — the personalized scroll — required that I enlist the help of various scribes in advance, too. Finally, this is the time to confirm that your site’s facilities meet your needs, such as any tables and chairs you may need for your demonstrations.

One week before: Prepare your printed materials. Running out of toner the night before is zero fun. You may need to employ your local copy or office supply shop to make copies of brochures, so allow time for that as well. I list all the printed materials I use for demos a bit later. This is also a good time to make a schedule for your event, if applicable, as well as plan where you’ll put things in your room/site at this point — I like to make a diagram, like this:


1-2 days before: Remind EVERYONE. E-mail, post, chat, whatever it takes to make sure everyone you are hoping will attend remembers. Also get together all the things you’re bringing — here’s my checklist:IMG_7632


  • Banner
  • Signboard
  • Contact (sign-in) sheets
  • Cookies and napkins
  • Video on iPad and speakers
  • Photo display board
  • Printed materials (brochures, cards, sheets)
  • Nametag
  • Things to display (costumes, embroidery, leathercraft, woodcraft)
  • Extra paper, pens, pencils
  • Tablecloth(s)
  • Duct tape!


1-2 hours before: Arrive early. I cannot overemphasis how important this is to me personally. When I get somewhere early, I worry less and things go smoother. Whenever I am in charge of something, be it an event or a class, I always try to arrive early.

Here are some photos from the event last night:






Printed Materials for Recruiting Events

I have made a lot of printed things over the past several years and now bring most, if not all, to recruitment events. I introduced a new one at last night’s Mass Meeting that I particularly like. Here’s a list of all my printed materials, as well as links to download and/or make your own:

  • Brochures: The Cynnabar brochure is a re-designed version of the official SCA tri-fold flyer found at Our version includes photos I took personally, as well as our most recent group photo. I prefer this personalized version over the generic version, but what’s important is that you have it. I have brochures on tables, as well as put brochures in the signboard placed 20-30 feet away (for those who want to read about us before they approach us).
  • Social Cards: This is a folded business card that we set out on tables. We also have folks keep these in their pockets to hand out as necessary. Here’s a generic, fillable version you can use for your group.
  • Demo Cards: These are cards you hand out to your group’s members to help them at the demo — one side has tips and reminders, the other side has a space where you can put important dates and information. I wrote up a blog post on the demo cards here.
  • Nametags: I make twill nametags so they go with our garb better—here’s the tutorial and PDFs for those.
  • Signage: Having signs around the room for various things helps everyone, newcomers and oldtimers. Here’s a PDF file with signs that you can print on card stock and fold in half to set on tables: event-signs
  • Newcomer Sheets: My latest printable is a set of individual sheets that I set around the room/site near the related activity/demonstration. They explain more about the activity and offer the locations/days/times of our related practices/workshops for that specific activity. When I greet newcomers, I give them the first page (“Welcome to the Society!”) and a folder, and tell them to pick up the other sheets places around to create their own newcomer’s handbook. I only have eight pages made so far — many more could be created! I took the text from the Newcomer’s Handbook at as well as the Newcomer’s Portal. The photos are all mine. Here’s a PDF of the pages so you can see what I’ve done—if you like this idea and what to do this, let me know and I’ll upload a fillable version for you to put your own information in.
  • Sign Up/Contact Sheets: Always have a bunch of copies of these so you can contact people later. Here’s a PDF of the one I use.
  • Flyers: Even though you probably already distributed/posted a bunch of these, I recommend you bring some to your event and pass them out near an entrance to your site/building to encourage more people to come! Here’s a PDF of a small, 1/4 page flyer we used last night.
  • Scrolls: I mentioned earlier that we had one of our scribes illuminate a scroll — I took this illuminated scroll, scanned it, and printed into onto a piece of parchment. Then we had two more scribes personalize each scroll with a newcomer’s name so they could take it home as a souvenir. I thought it was a big hit! Here’s a PDF of the scroll to use as inspiration for your own (note that it is two-sided).


That’s a lot of stuff, I know, and you may not need all of it. But I find these things really help!


People for Recruiting Events

I’ve already touched on this a lot, but there is no recruiting event without people—your group’s people and the potential new people! The biggest tip I can provide here, beyond what I’ve mentioned, is personal invitations. When I personally ask someone from our Barony to attend and help out, they know they are needed and appreciated, and I find they are much more likely to try to make it to a demo. Not everyone likes demos, but most people like to know they matter, and this is an excellent time to remind them of their importance to your group.

Personal invitations to newcomers also really help. Even though we passed out a Mass Meeting flyer to nearly everyone who visited us at the student recruitment fairs, I still made a point to send a personal e-mail to each one to invite them to Mass Meeting. I really feel this makes a difference. It takes time, yes, but it’s worth it. Tip: I used Google Spreadsheets to enter each recruits e-mail address, name, and notes, then I used a mail merge to send out a personal e-mail with their name, location of where I met them, and relevant notes. This is how I sent out nearly 200 personal e-mails not once, but twice. Try it!

If your group doesn’t do a lot of demos, you may also want to schedule a workshop or meeting to talk about the demo. This is an opportunity to educate your group on what a demo is and what they can do to present a positive face to our newcomers. I don’t have to do this in Cynnabar, as our group is well-acquainted with demos.


Finally, when your event is done, don’t forget to follow-up with your newcomers, thank your people for helping out, and plan another recruitment event, such as a newcomer’s workshop for all the new people to attend!

Speaking of which, a HUGE THANK YOU to Cynnabar for turning out so splendidly for our Mass Meeting last night. I’m continually amazed by your skills and talents, and your willingness to share those with new people. You are each an inspiration to me.

Let me know if you need more information or have questions!

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