Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Singing and Sewing: Ealdormereans at the second Quest for the Golden Seamstress (Feb 22, 2003)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

A team of five good gentles from the canton of Ardchreag, within the barony of Septentria, within our glorious kingdom of Ealdormere, did set out one chill February morn for the barony of Roaring Wastes in the Kingdom of the Middle. The team consisted of Lady Mahault van der Eych, Lady Gailana Dunkel Pfere, Lady Thorfinna gra’feldr, Lina Carville and myself. Our journey was pleasant and the guards between the borders of our lands did not detain us. In fact, upon learning of the cause of our journey the guard looked at us in surprise and began to laugh.

For we had come to sew; and this was to be no day in the parlour either, me lad. For we were to create a complete set of garb in seventeen hours, sleep being optional.

We arrived in Roaring Wastes five hours before the site was to open and so traveled to a local book depository where we all exclaimed in joy and awe and crawled upon our hands and knees through the stacks and took home many treasures. A brief sojourn to a local eatery where the fare and service was sublime followed. We then gave our wagon into the care of a hosteller and unloaded our gear.

We were still technically an hour early, but the event staff allowed us entry on the condition that we help them set up. This we gladly did, pulling out tables and chairs and making the acquaintance of a certain Jack Russell terrier named Indy.

After setting up our area and changing into new clothing we watched as other teams began to arrive. One of them had two Ealdormerean members, being THL Anne Von Tolstadt and THL Maeve MacKellar from Ben Dunfirth. Anne was the leader of this team.

When the time came to sew we fell to and worked until four in the morning. (Though your chronicler must admit that he succumbed to sleep two and a half hours earlier than that.) At eight in the morn we rose to continue our work.

Our team was entered in the novice late period category, there being three categories (early, middle and late periods) and two skill levels (novice and advance). Our team leaders, Mahault and Gailana, had decided on an Elizabethan outfit worn by Pfalzgrafin Dorothea Sabina Von Neuberg when she was buried in 1598.  To be truthful these two did the brunt of all the work with the other three of us doing grunt work, some hand stitching, coffee grabbing and spirit raising. We sung many songs, including a special sewing filk Thorfinna and I had written with this event in mind. The other attendees found our singing unusual, in the fact that I don’t think they are used to people spontaneously bursting into song. When the autocrats later handed out their autocrat awards, our team was awarded for our bargain basement shopping (our dress cost about $65 US) and for our multi-part singing. The first time we finished a song I looked up to find a number of gentles that had wandered over to hear us better. Mav also cheered us with a “wassail!”

Our tables were swarmed with Laurels who eagerly talked with Mahault and Gailana as they debated certain points of construction or documented sources. They said they were very impressed that we were willing to listen to them and seriously consider their advice. One of the Laurels in attendance was Mistress Joliecia of Litchfield, who had come to the event with Lady Jean-Margaret Donnerfaust (the latter also of Ardchreag).

Much food and drink was included with our entry fee and we were given donuts, bagels, coffee, tea, bits and bites and pop to get us through Friday night. Saturday morning we were fed fruit salad, quiche, toast and bagels. In the evening cake, chips and punch was provided. Lunch and dinner foods were available for an extra fee. We ate like the hearty northerners that we are.

We ran into only a few problems. The under dress turned out to not fit together quite right and the under sleeves sagged. With some wrangling by Mahault and Gailana the under dress was banged into shape, and upon a Laurel’s suggestion bead work was added to the sleeves which held the lining and the sleeve proper from sagging. A hat was made and I spent a good chunk of time beading it (something I had never done before). Other than that things ran relatively smoothly.

We finished with a bit of time to spare, and we fell into a pile on the floor. At six pm every groups sent their model up onto the stage and the Laurels and other judges critiqued them. Since the Laurels were interested in all manner of construction of the garb the models had to strip down tot heir skivvies. Since we were in the novice category we had been allowed to sew our underclothes off site, so we had brought out bloomers, chemise and farthingale (hoop skirt) with us. Some teams not only sewed their dress, cotehardie or blio on site, they even made shoes, belts, mirrored hats, sword sheathes and all many of accessories.

When the fashions show was over the judges sequestered themselves for an hour as snow began to fall in abundance outside. The autocrats handed out their awards and announced the winners of a silent auction. Special acknowledgment was made of the ‘Hoodigans’ who had sewn one hundred hoods for the Midrealm army during the course of the event. We helped take down tables and Mahault vacuumed a large stretch of the hall.

When the judges came down Mistress Rebekah MacTiernan came over to tell us personally how impressed she was with our work. We joked that this meant we must not have won. Something along the lines of “you’re really good but…” She took our ribbing in the good nature in which it was intended.

It was announced that the winner in the novice late period category was…us! I was, I’ll admit, a bit shocked. I new we had done well, but I thought he other teams in our category had done pretty well too. Anne’s team, who had entered the advanced late period category won first place for that category! It was like the old days of Ealdormere, when it was not much more than Eoforwic, and its artisans would win many arts and science competitions in the Middle Kingdom. We were all of us very proud.


The event was one of a kind, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in costuming and garb. Plan now, recruit a team, and hopefully I’ll see you down in Roaring Wastes next year.

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