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The Hillfort

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September 18th, 2018


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Greetings and welcome to The Hillfort, the home of Iofa merch Macsen.  In this journal I will be talking about things having to do with my life in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).  For posts about my life outside of the SCA you can go to my other LJ at http://tn-lark.livejournal.com/profile  So seat yourself close to my fire, close your eyes, and listen to the bards as they tell the tales of our ancestors.

December 9th, 2012

Celtic Garb Embellishment

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My persona is that of a woman of the Durotriges from the area around modern Maiden Castle at about the time of the Roman invasions in 44 CE.  Oh I know some may quibble that this is technically outside of the SCA period, but I find that I have a deep interest in this Iron Age period when the world is in a great flux of change and the foundations of modern Europe are first being laid down.  When I first started playing in the SCA I was a bit put off by the fact that my clothes seemed rather dull.  Modern trip seemed out of place, and I didn't then know how to do tablet weaving or use the inkle loom.  Then I took a class on "Celtic embroidery" at Pennsic and my addiction to hand-embroidered garb was born.

Certainly we have no evidence that the Celts embroidered their clothing as I am now doing.  But Suetonius Paulinus stated that the Celts in Britain wore "brightly embroidered clothing".  He further described a cloak with a checky embroidered edge.  Finds in Yorkshire from the Arras culture which date to somewhere around 250-200 BCE confirm his description of an embroidered, checky border on a typical Celtic brat.  So perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to believe that the same sorts of designs that we find on Celtic metal, stone, and wood work surviving from the La Tene period in Britain might have influenced decorative fabric arts as well.

[Read More]In any event, I started embroidering my garb using images found from everything from metalwork to illuminations.  I'm not so much interested in historical accuracy as I am in getting the "feel" for something that might have existed in period and for producing garb that is something "special".  While in period embroidery would have been most likely done in silk or wool (depending on the ground fabric) I chose to use DMC floss because it is reliably color-fast when I toss my field garb in the washing machine.  All of the work is done with split-stitch using all six strands of the DMC floss so that the embroidery stands out on the fabric.  I also found that outlining the areas in black gave a more potent color and image.

My first work was a tunic embroidered at the neckline with a design derived from the cheekpiece of a Gaulish helmet dated to around 400 BCE.

On each sleeve were upright bears done in the manner of Pictish art

Around the hem were several walking bears interspersed with triskeles.

And on the back of the tunic was a large triskele about 8 inches across:

All of the work on this tunic was done using the same color palette, but no two figures on the tunic had the same combinations of the colors.

The second piece I made was done on a saffron-colored linent and had a neckline of the big-eyed serpents from the Book of Kells:  And just because I thought it was amusing, the serpent in the top right actually has a pair of googly eyes while all of the rest are embroidered.

Around the hem of the dress are running cats taken from the Book of Kells, interspersed with mice done in the same style.

Another piece that I made was a bog dress done in red linen and embroidered with boars done in the Pictish style.

I made a second bog dress in pale green linen embroidered with peacocks taken again from the Book of Kells

And then I went on to embellishing items that I carried around on a regular basis.  I have a bag fully of my archery bits such as finger tabs and bowstrings embroidered with a knotwork design.  And my day bag is embroidered with a sort of Green Man design.  The original was a tiny boss on the handle of a tankard from Gaul dating to around 400 BCE.  I took the basic outline of the design and then created my own designs in filling in the larger areas.

Sure I know that what I am doing can't be documented.  But I don't think that it is too far fetched or stretching into the fantasy realm.  Sometimes it's about being creative, having fun, and making something you truly enjoy!

September 24th, 2012

Visiting Bayeux

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I finally had the opportunity to visit Bayeux and view the Tapestry myself.  It was perhaps the high point of our trip.  I had taken my reproduction with me on the trip and showed it to the historians on our National Geographic tour and was thus asked to give a short talk to the passengers on the ship about the history of the Tapestry and how it was produced.  I think that the audience enjoyed being able to actually see up close and touch a piece that reproduced the original before actually going to view the original itself. 

We weren't able to photograph the Bayeux Tapestry itself, but after viewing the Tapestry we visited the Cathedral of Bayeux which was constructed by Bishop Odo...who commissioned the Tapestry.  The Cathedral was dedicated in 1077 with both Odo and William in attendance.

One thing that I believe I confirmed, at least in my own estimation, is that there was no place in the Cathedral where the Tapestry could have been properly displayed.  It would have needed to be displayed at eye level in order to be appreciated, and the soaring arches of the Cathedral did not provide that sort of display.  I would contend, since evidence shows that it was likely manufactured in England, that the Tapestry was first hung somewhere like the Great Hall at Westminster or the royal palace at Winchester.  Perhaps later, when it had served its purpose it might have been taken for display in the Bishop's Palace at Bayeux.

August 19th, 2010

Pennsic XXX!X

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I'm home again from Pennsic.  The laundry is done, the camping rubble safely stowed until next year, and the layers of Pennsic dirt have been scrubbed away.

Read more...Collapse )

July 22nd, 2010

New Embroidery Project

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I have finally completed my latest embroidery project.  I set out to make an original embroidery done in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry. 

My first task was to find an image that would be contemporary with the Bayeux which would lend itself to embroidery.  In the process I discovered two Anglo-Saxon calendars which depict the Labors of the Month.  The first was the Julius Calendar which dates to approximately 1020 CE, and the second the Tiberius Calendar which dates to around 1060 CE.  The Tiberius Calendar was thought to have been created at the cathedral in Winchester.  Since I was able to find a clear line drawing from the latter, since it was essentially contemporary with the Bayeux, and since it was present at Winchester where current research suggests the Bayeux was completed that was the set of images that I chose to work with.  I finally settled on the month of October with the Labor of the Month being that of hunting.

Since the image did not fully fill the piece of linen that I had to work with I decided to add to it borders taken from the Bayeux which also depict hunting scenes including a brace of quail, a falcon, two dogs and a fox.

The background of the piece is linen and the embroidery is done in naturally dyed lambswool using the brand and colors identified in the book "The Bayeux Tapestry Embroderer's Story..

I have completed the initial draft of the documentation for the piece and hope to have it finalized for this fall's A&S season.

May 12th, 2010

Spring Coronation - 2010

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Mistress Nerak and I attended Spring Coronation and had a wonderful time...even though we almost froze in our tent on Friday night.  But the weather on Saturday was glorious, cool and sunny.  I spent much of the day outside working on embroidery and knitting while Mistress Nerak was in Laurel meetings.

That night we attended the Black and White Ball, and my Laurel had made certain that I had some lovely new garb to wear.  It is far different from my early period garb!  And it made several jaws drop when I walked in.  I felt truly lovely, and it was fun having the swishy sleeves and skirt while dancing.

March 25th, 2010

Gulf Wars 2010

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I am home again from Gulf Wars, tired, dusty and happy.  The weather was remarkably good right up until Saturday night, and by the time the rain started I was safely in the hotel packing to come home.  Of course the fact that it was shirt-sleeve weather on Saturday and snowing on Sunday was a bit of a shock.  So was the long detour home after a sinkhole ate part of I-65 north of Birmingham forcing us to take a longer route up through Memphis before heading to Nashville.

Much of the war was spent visiting with old friends and making some new ones and I had a lot of fun doing portrait-style photography of as many of them as I could get to hold still

[Read More]The War started with a bright and sunny day for opening ceremonies at the Fort

And of course their Majesties, Thomas and Ellisande, looking splendid as they graced the ceremonies with their presence.

And of course amongst all the Kingdom pagentry I had to take some pictures of some of my Brothers from the Great Dark Horde.

Baroness Kiegan, Former Khan of the GDH

And Squeek.  Don't let the pretty face fool you, this gal is really good with a rapier!

And here is a picture of the Trimarin Horn of State being born by the wonderful and talented gentle who carved it.  It really is an amazing piece!

Gulf Wars is one event which includes both coursing and also equestrian activities.  I got to enjoy some wolfhound kisses and leans from the two lovely hounds that were present.

And on Thursday I spent part of the morning watching the greyhounds course the lure. They were having a wonderful time of it and it was a joy to see these rescued dogs living the life they deserved.

I walked over to watch some of the mounted events as well.  I loved the knight on the mule with both in motley.

And I thought this picture of tilting the quintain was rather nice.  I managed to catch it just as his spear impacted the target.

And on the last day of the War they had a mounted procession through the merchant's area escorting the coach with Lord Steven riding in it..  Steven was the Guest of Honor at Gulf Wars courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  I can only hope that the event was everything this good Gentle dreamed it could be.  This was the SCA at its finest, truly living the Dream.

There was a wonderful display of falconry at the War.  The handlers brought both a Harris Hawk and a Peregrine falcon, but it was the falcon that appealed most to me.

One of the truly magical places at Gulf Wars is the Green Dragon Tavern where one can enjoy a pint, a ploughman's lunch, and some live entertainment.  We spent two marvelous evenings in here listening to Master Effenwalt perform.

My Horde Brother, Master JP merchants at Gulf Wars, sometimes disguised as Master John Deere the mad purveyor of fine perfumes.

JP's pavilion also becomes a meeting/resting place for the Horde at Gulf Wars.  Here are my Brothers Rowena and Brise taking their ease.

And now for some portrait shots of friends old a new!

Duchess Alyssa at the Ladies of the Rose Tournament

Countess Tessa of the Gardens, also taken at the Ladies of the Rose Tournament

Mistress Isolde and her husband, Master Finn

Sir Trudy Lacklandia, first lady Knight of the SCA doing what she loves best,...frisking the fighters at Marshal's Point.

Sir Assad of the Outlands.  Probably the best hand-kisser in the SCA

Claudia, Countess Tessa and Mistress Isolde plotting outside the bakery.

Countess Tessa, Master Finn, Mistress Isolde, and Mistress Nerak (my own Laurel) outside the bakery.

My Brother and friend, Mistress Jalali, putting aside her Persian garb to try on the new Flemish gown she bought.

And Duke, Sir John the Bearkiller, taken at Meridien Court

And one last picture of the musical group Volgemut playing outside the coffeeshop.

All in all it was a lovely war.  Now I just have to finish getting myself together for Pennsic!


October 29th, 2009


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Wheeee!  I had the best time last weekend out in San Francisco attending the INKINS event.  Two whole days of needlework intensive with some very talented teachers and other embroiderers.  I particularly went out to take the class on the St. Cuthbert technique being taught by Letitia de Scotia.  The class was worth every penny I spent on the trip.  I feel like I'm ready to tackle a piece of St. Cuthbert work just as soon as I get the proper magnifier so that I can see what I'm doing.  Doing counted work on 32-count fabric is more than my eyes can handle easily.  I can't imagine how the original was done on 64-count fabric.

I also took a really good class on Or Nue and I've been working away on the practice piece we were given.  Like the St. Cuthbert work working with single strands of silk is really going to need better light and magnification than doing the Bayeux let me get away with.  I'm also thinking I may want to consider getting either a floor or a lap stand to work on.

The last class that I took was a discussion of the Hogam tunic from a grave site in Sweden dated to about 500 AD.  Viking textiles of that period did not include embroidery as we might think of it.  Most of the decorative stitching on garments was done as both decoration and as a way of reinforcing seams and covering raw edges of the underlying fabric.  We started making a Viking cap and were able to use any of the documented stitches we wished to assemble and decorate it.

On Saturday night I did go out to dinner with several of the other embroiderers.  We found a place called Max's Cafe not far from the hotel and spent several hours discussing embroidery and other arts and sciences topics over a delicious meal.

I was really impressed by the whole IKINS experience and I'd love to see something similar started in Meridies.

September 18th, 2009

I did a reproduction of a portion of two panels of the Bayeux Tapestry. It is done in lamb's wool on linen using the colors described in "The Bayeux Tapestry Embroiderers' Story" by Jan Messent.  The piece is done in approximately 3/4 scale to the original.  The piece made me the A&S Champion at the Meridian Midwinter A&S competion.  And at Kingdom A&S it garnered a perfect score.

I'm now working on an original piece in the Bayeux style using an illustration from an Anglo-Saxon calendar contemporary with the Bayeux Tapestry.

Here's a couple of pictures of the piece:

April 15th, 2009

Spring Coronation - 2009

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A picture of me dressed up for the Black & White Ball at Coronation.  For once in something other than my usual Celtic persona.

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