Hiding Modern Items Using Period Techniques

Why am I doing this?

My goal for 2020 is to spruce up my period aesthetic. While I can’t fix everything yet, I have some excessively modern items that could use some help. If you can tell it’s modern at 20 feet, I want to hide it somehow.


A Notebook Cover using German Brickstitch

Rationale

Something I carry at events is a Field Notes notebook, which ranges in color from dirt brown to neon orange. It could use a nice cover.

Two Field Notes notebooks

I also want to do a project out of brickstitch, which I haven’t done before. Why not combine the two?

Reference Materials

My project pattern came from this lovely site: https://medievalhomecompanion.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/german-brick-stitch.pdf

Processes

My first two samples measure about 2 1/2″ by 1 7/8″, which corresponds to one sheet of graph paper.

The red sample is stitched on Aida 16 with DMC floss. Aida fabric is nice because the holes are already punched, allowing me to focus on the pattern without counting literal threads.

The green sample is stitched on the same fabric with 3/2 pearl cotton thread, the same type I use for inkle weaving. I have a lot of it and the ends don’t pop up through the holes.

The cover followed the same pattern. I traced the journal cover on the fabric and added an edge of one inch to fold back on the covers.

Stitching took a few weeks but was a relatively simple and mechanical process. During this, I discovered the texture of the piece began to resemble carpet more than cotton – the final piece is noticeably thicker than the Aida fabric I started with. It also seems to have shrunk the fabric, as my notebook is now longer than the cover. I’m not sure why that is.

I sewed the cover ‘flaps’ over the journal to hold the journal in place, which proved difficult because the cover was too short.

Final Product

Not Quite Period

Clearly, neither Aida fabric nor pearl cotton is period. This technique would also not be used in this way: common period uses include purses and wall hangings, not embroidered journal covers.

Thoughts on better methods

This was a fun project, but one I will not repeat. My next journal cover will be made of leather, while the brickstitch will be used on a needlecase.

Speaking of period techniques using non-period materials for a non-period item, I have another glaring obvious item at events: the modern utility cart.


A Cart Caparison: Or, Horse Trappings in the Time of Wagons

Rationale

The carts you find at SCA events are ever so handy and ever so difficult to distinguish from each other. One red wagon looks the same as every other red wagon from a distance. How are you to distinguish your wagon in the cart corral?

The Duke of Brittany jousting with the Duke of Bourbon, from Le Livre des tournois, c 1460
The Dukes of Brittany and Bourbon jousting in the Le Livre des tournois c 1460

The answer is always heraldry.

Reference Materials

The Codex Manesse (c 1305-1340, Zurich) is full of horses draped with caparisons, a type of cloth armor. Many of of the caparisons match their knights’ device.


Materials Justification

Medieval caparisons were made of silk or cut velvet, while several of the caparisons in the Manesse Codex show a fur lining. Charges were likely appliqued on later. The lining provides good draping and could be replaced independently of the caparison.

Acrylic felt is clearly not period but has several advantages: cheap, easy to obtain, easy to manipulate, and requires no hemming. My caparison was created over the last weekend before Emprise of the Black Lion 2019.

Patterning

Mistress Annisa’s guide to sewing caparisons was my initial guide. Of course, a wagon is structured differently from a horse, which simplifies the construction.

The caparison, laid out

The covering is sewn from four rectangular pieces and seven straps to tie to the cart. Two of the four pieces are sewn together to form the back half – three straps, two at the corners, one in the middle, tie the covering to the wagon. The remaining two pieces form the front two pieces, each with two straps to tie to the cart. The front section is in two parts to allow the handle of the cart to attach back to the cart.  

My arms: Per fess wavy azure and vert,
two birds and a stag lodged Or

I used 1 yard of 72″ craft felt for both the outer portion (charcoal gray) and the lining (pink), with an additional 1/4 yard in each of the heraldic colors (blue, green, and gold).

After cutting rectangles of the two main colors to fit my wagon and seven 16″ x 1″ ties, I pinned the main sections together and pinned the straps into place at the corners. Then I machined sewed three sides, leaving the bottom edge free.

Caparison pieces pinned right sides together, ties pinned in the upper corners

Leaving the bottom edge free allowed me to sew on the heraldic charges without sewing through the lining, and would let the lining be easily replaced without affecting the outer fabric.

Caparison sewed together, with ties in the upper corners.

My device is equally divided horizontally into a blue section and a green section, with smaller animals in gold on each half. I used a print out of my device to trace the patterns on the felt before cutting them out. Then I sewed the blue tops to the green bottom and tacked the gold charges on with small stitches.

Materials and tools used for the heraldic devices
Four devices without charges
Detailed look at tracing heraldic charges
A completed felt device

The devices were then tacked onto the caparison with grey thread. The wagon doesn’t undergo stress, so a quick and easy tacking stitch is appropriate.

Final Product

The finished caparison, from the back
The finished caparison, from the front

Make Your Own

Not Quite Period

As mentioned earlier, acrylic felt is not period. The construction is neither period nor durable, although it can handle the dirt at Ursulmas and it doesn’t need to survive the war field.

It is noticeably felt at any distance.

Thoughts on better methods

I would like to make another caparison of silk or wool with a wool lining. The charges would likewise be of silk appliqued using a period technique. One uncertainty is how to properly attach the caparison to the wagon. I may consider finger loop woven cords or leather buckles.

Citations

9 Replies to “Hiding Modern Items Using Period Techniques”

  1. I applaud your continued exploration into different art forms! Your embroidery technique is quite lovely, I encourage you to also attempt these various techniques with different fabrics and threads.

    As for how to attach the caparison, I think you’re on to something with finger looped ties for the ends, but you might consider hooks to bring it up over the edge of the wagon. :>

  2. It is amazing what attention to small details like trying to obscure obvious modern items can do for the feel of camping at an event. Well done on sharing this experience and good luck with your upcoming projects.

  3. Kudos for projects to disguise the modern parts of your kit! I enjoyed reading about your process and reflection.

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