Ask me anything

A while back there was a trend on social media with people saying “I’ve been re-enacting since 1976″/”I’m a Laurel and a Pelican in the SCA”/”I’m King of Whatever” ASK ME ANYTHING.

And people did, and there were some interesting questions and just as interesting answers.

Now I have not been re-enacting since 1976 (I wasn’t born yet), and I have no fancy titles in the SCA (just an AoA, which is pretty much the “hey you showed up!” award) and I’m not a King or Queen of any group.  But in case you hadn’t noticed, I love talking about this stuff.  Hence, blog.  Also Instagram, Facebook Page, and now Ko-fi.  I think I do have an interesting and slightly unusual perspective as well– I’m a relative newcomer to the cultures and traditions of these various re-enactment and costuming communities, but I am fairly knowledgeable about a variety of topics.

Mostly thread-related ones.

I got some questions from friends, but this was on my personal Facebook page, so the reach was somewhat limited.  Now for the first time in actual public, here is my medieval re-enactment Ask Me Anything!  Some of the questions I asked were specifically SCA related, but a lot of them are more general.

What is the first thing a peerage order should start doing to make the Society better for everyone else?

This is weirdly specific and not entirely answering your question, but it IS a pet peeve, so here goes.

The inconsistency in knighthood/knighting drives me a little bit bonkers. There are knights who are kind and chivalric and serve with grace and are worthy of recognition who make the Kingdom(s) a better place.

Then there are knights who are good at hitting people with sticks.

And this doesn’t seem to happen so much with the other peerages– people generally don’t get Laureled if they are very good at their arts but don’t teach and share, and even with the MOD there is more of an emphasis on the study of historical technique, research, and teaching.

It seems to be a bit of a double standard and it is frustrating, especially as I watch friends who are teaching and serving and helping others and deserving of recognition get passed over for people who only show up to fight.

What are the next three arts/skills you want to learn?

Setting aside the fact that I should really probably stop learning new things because I have TOO MANY OF THEM already….. here goes
1. I still need to just get over myself and cut and sew some fur already. I am intimidated by the process and how different it is from fabric and I think if I dive in I will be fine! I asked for advice in the Elizabethan Costuming group and got SO MUCH ADVICE that I think it was almost counterproductive? A little overwhelming

2. This is very specific, but I am still not very good at getting neat outlines on my satin stitch. Not so relevant for SCA stitching but I’m dabbling in Regency at the moment.

3. Oh god, I don’t know! I want to continue improving my tailoring– it’s come a long way in just the last year, when I compare the construction on my black Spanish 1520s to the Florentine 1520s dress I am working on at the moment. I’d love to learn the four-sided-stitch variant of voided blackwork, where the background turns into a mesh.  This is what I tried for that Liepperheide piece ages ago that got tossed early on….

What are you working on now? Or planning to work on next?

(note: this is now a little bit out of date.  But basically just that I have abandoned the Florentine 1520s dress for now)

SCA-wise, at the moment I am:
1. Working on a Florentine 1520s dress for hot weather, which may require some modifications to be functional (ugh)
2. The embroidery of Darrin’s arms that I started ~2 years ago and never finished
3. A hand-sewn hand-embroidered shirt for William

Outside of SCA projects I am:
1. Embroidering a whitework Regency fichu
2. Making Hanna a couture 1920s coat

Things I want to do next:
1. Regency bodiced petticoat
2. Regency pelisse
3. High-status 14th C dress
4. 1570s Florentine Court outfit (eeek!)

Things I want to get back to:
1. Voided blackwork handkerchief
2. Tiny gold roses and acorns blackwork project (intended to be a gift if I ever finish it)
3. Lace for MOD glove
4. 1330s peasant surcote (but this is in storage in Glasgow)
5. 1878 Polonaise set (also in storage in Glasgow)

What have you learned about costuming from making middle-class clothing versus upper-class?

Oh god how long of an answer do you want?
95% of the people who try and do upper-class clothing fail because they half-ass it. Not intentionally, I’m not coming for anyone here but look. If you are going to make a court gown it’s going to be expensive, and time consuming, and challenging to source. I’m working on getting the materials together for a truly high-status late-period Italian set and so far I’ve bought 15 yards of antique real metallic trim, and I think I’ll probably need more. This is on top of silk, and velvet, and pearls, and setting ruffs, and needle lace, and tailoring, and don’t even get me started on jewelry– Armour and Castings has the exact set I need….. it’s $700. I am trying to do this properly and I fully understand that I may well fail. That’s part of why I haven’t started sewing it yet

I think the important part is, no matter what social status you go for, do it fully. If you are going to do court, AWESOME! But don’t buy mylar trim and fake-looking poly satin (good poly satin is awesome, but hard to find). Get the real metal jewelry because you can tell the difference. Yeah, it’ll be expensive, but it was expensive in period too and there is a reason only a small part of the population could make that happen. Making a perfectly fitted middle-class dress is just as much of an artistic challenge as a court gown. Making peasant clothes elegant and graceful and real is one of my favorite things.

(I’ve realized a lot of what I said above is mostly late-period relevant, particularly re:trimming which is not so much of a thing in, say, the 14th C, so take it with a grain of salt)

If you could change one thing about YOUR SCA experience, what would be?

I would like to be able to be a conventionally attractive visibly unattached well-dressed young woman in the SCA without all the creepy male gaze stuff

How do you recommend someone just starting in re-enactment spend their money?

I think that depends on what they are into? Someone who wants to fight in armor is going to have different priorities from someone who wants to make clothes, and I probably can’t give them a whole lot of guidance (although I know from fencing that getting your own mask is a good idea, sharing is gross).

For someone who is starting in re-enactment and wants to sew…..again, depends on what they are interested in. And how much money they are willing/able to drop. But for a start:
1. Natural fiber thread. Poly thread is icky.

2. Good needles. This will make your life so much easier.


4. A good starter book on your time period of choice. Depends on what you are into but the Tudor Tailor/Medieval Tailor’s Assistant/is there something like this for Viking I honestly don’t know?

5. Does not cost money but being able to research is incredibly important. Even if you just start with google images and pinterest. And you can find all sorts of fab free resources! Design Elements of Renaissance Embroidery is a LOT cheaper than The New Carolingian Modelbook

If you’ve got more money available then we start talking sewing machines and embroidery supplies but to be honest I almost never sew garb on the sewing machine anymore, and if I do it’s things like the skirt seams, because those are boring and don’t require accuracy

What is your idea of the perfect event?

We had an event called newcomer’s a while back that was lovely and really relaxed. Not too hot (a nice change in the west kingdom!) and we had no responsibilities. Morgan, Sarah, and I sat and crafted and ate delicious food and gossiped and it was pretty much perfect.  For similar reasons Harpelstane Dance Moot was wonderful.

If I had to ask anything of events in general I would say less hot and fewer guys being creepy

What’s your favorite thing about re-enactment?

People actually understand my weird hobbies, appreciate them, and want to know more/teach me more. That had never happened before.

Also for the first time ever I have a community? I show up and lots of people want to give me a hug and say hi and are happy to see me? I’m not just in a corner by myself?

What was the first SCA project that you did that set you on your current art path?

Well the first SCA thing I ever made was a late 15th C Spanish dress with blackwork which is definitely still on-brand!

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