Monday, December 23, 2019


No new sewn Christmas dresses this year; it crept up on us far too quickly and there wasn't time for planning of pretty new frocks or carefully coordinated outfits and posed pictures. And that is ok.

Instead, we put on whatever red or greenish clothes we had and I took the kids out to a mound site near here, and they agreed to allow a few pictures before going down to the creek to look for arrowheads, pretty shells and rocks and get dirty and wet, in general. Since it nearly reached 60 degrees today, that is also ok. 😁

It is always a bit bittersweet to take pictures of the kids and to realize how quickly they are growing up. My oldest is now a teenager and baby Rose will go to kindergarten next summer. How thankful I am for moments like these, to always keep in memory. I love my sweet ones.

Have a wonderful Christmas! I love you all.


Monday, December 9, 2019

A Druid Robe

This project has given me more pause than any other I have made. All throughout the process of planning it and sewing it I stopped and set it aside, to return to it later when I was in the right frame of mind. Sometimes I felt really positive about this project and other times I would think to myself that this doesn't matter; it's silly; people will think I'm weird when I wear it.

Well, yes. In many ways this outfit does not matter. Any person who wears certain clothing for special occasions would probably say something similar; clothing is just a tool. It can help us get into a state of mind where we are more in tune with what is going on in and around us. But we can just as well do what we need to do without wearing specific clothes.

But, of course, being rather interested in clothes and their construction and their history I really wanted to make this! Whether people think I'm weird or not is a non-issue, even though I at times still feel that peer pressure to "conform" to people's expectations (I'm growing out of it though! I promise!) While many neo druid groups encourage the use of "traditional" white robes, I was more interested in what people were actually wearing during the time the ancient druids were still practicing and teaching in Europe. I thought it wouldn't be terribly hard to find out what northern Europeans were wearing during the Iron Age to early Dark Ages but. . .um yeah. It is hard.

This isn't a period terribly well documented, both due to the time that has passed between then and now and the lack of written record. While some possible documentation exists in the form of Roman records and contemporary art depicting captives, it's hard to know what is real and what is artistic license or bias inserted against warring groups by Roman chroniclers.

Some accounts indicate druids did, indeed, wear white, while others indicate bright colors and expensive fabrics.

Of course, I also had to take into consideration a lot of other factors. Geographic location (druidry was rather widespread), cultural influence of neighboring communities, military outposts and trade coming in from other places, contemporary attitudes towards druidic practice (while it was perfectly acceptable early on, Christianity soon attempted to make short work of the druids and "converted" a lot of the druid sacred figures and days to a "Christian" version). I had to take into account who I am, what my role would have possibly been if, in an alternate world, I had been born into a community where druidry was practiced. Would I have been a druid myself? (women were) Would I have been a citizen under the leadership of the druids? (they served as historians, poets, teachers, healers and judges of disputes) Would the druids have dressed differently than laypeople? Or would they have worn similar clothing but indicated their status through the use of color or certain garments?

The hooded white robe of modern druidy finds its origin not in the actual age of druidry but in the druidic revival of the 17th century on. Today, many people still wear the hooded white robe for special occasions but many prefer not to, especially since some hate groups have adopted similar white hooded garments, like the KKK!

I read a lot of books and articles and thought about which direction I wanted to go with this outfit. I was not in any hurry but thought it would be nice to get it done before the end of the year, which also is the end of my first year in OBOD. I also did not want to spend any money on this outfit. Recycling materials is an earth-honoring practice and I felt it was more in the spirit of druidry to use what I already had rather than buy anything new. After looking over available materials that had not been earmarked for other projects, I decided that I would, indeed, make a white garment but I did not want it to resemble the modern hooded robe. There would be no hood and the garments would be of a historic cut, at least, though not of a historic material.

I went back to the first book I had read on the subject of clothing. This book is the fabulous Dress and Personal Appearance in Late Antiquity, the Clothing of the Middle and Lower Classes by Faith Pennick Morgan. While this book deals with the clothing worn in the Mediterranean area under Roman rule, the styles are so simple that it seems the basic shapes could not have been completely foreign to their celtic neighbors. Indeed, most garments are unfitted and vary little between men and women, except in length, and are based on a square or rectangular shape. I could find no evidence for the more fitted gusseted, gored "T-Tunic" pre 500 AD or so, so I decided to go with the diagrams in this book for my robes. (Honestly, "robes" sound far more grand and luxurious than this outfit is; it's really an under-dress or under-tunic with a short overdress!) A long sleeved tunic makes sense for the celts, although certainly bare arms beneath a peplos type dress were worn as well. I live in Ohio; it gets cold, and I like long sleeves 3/4 of the year, so yes, mine is long sleeved. 😁

I had a large flat white cotton sheet and decided to use that for a long sleeved under-dress. This dress is based on the Whitworth Tunic on page 124, which is the closest thing I could find to the later gusseted styles. This cut allowed me to achieve a semi fitted bust and shoulder area, with sleeves that taper to the wrist, and a skirt with fullness that flares out from the underarm to the hem so that I have plenty of movement when walking. It is still a very modest style that does not require much fabric. Instead of the close fitting square neckline of the Whitworth garment I made my neckline in a common straight style, which is merely a horizontal slit from shoulder to shoulder, large enough to allow the head to pass through, and hemmed down to create the very shallowest of shallow boat necks.

This is a wonderful, comfortable basic garment. I thought it was ugly and hugely unflattering til I put it on and I didn't want to take it off. Unflattering or not, this is comfortable! And it is warm. The neckline took a bit of getting used to, but eventually I didn't notice it at all. To construct this under dress, I cut two rectangles of fabric for the front and back body, two rectangles that I later cut down to taper towards the wrist for the sleeves, and two triangles to sew to the sides of the body to add fullness at the hem. The interior stitching was sewn by machine with all seams felled by hand afterwards.

The over dress is a short peplos style dress (also known as a bog dress) without the fold-over at the top. It is short because the fabric I had was pre cut into panels (probably for curtains?) and I couldn't lengthen it without piecing. I do like the shorter length, though, especially as this fabric has a tendency to grab onto anything it touches. An overdress that goes nearer to the ground would pick up all kinds of little twigs and leaves and would be a pain to clean after wearing. This dress is simply a tube of fabric, hemmed on both open edges and pinned into place on each shoulder. To give the dress a bit of shape, I belted it, as was done historically. This is just a self fabric belt but one in the colors of the "grade" in OBOD you are working in would not be out of place, either. Of course, a tablet woven belt is my eventual goal but for now. . .I like this just fine. The over dress blouses out over the belt at the sides and hangs down a bit, so that the hem remains relatively even. In period, tapering tucks were sometimes sewn into tunics around the waist level, to bring the hem up evenly.

I also made a short, sleeveless white chemise or slip. This has no base in history but is purely practical, since the sheet I used for my under dress is a bit see-through. I used leftover cotton knit fabric and my fitted t-shirt pattern to sew up this quick little garment. This actually could double quite well as a summer dress if it's too hot to wear the full ensemble! 😁

Since there are no pockets I threaded my self fabric belt through the back loops of a leather bag I've had forever. This works just fine to keep any necessary items in and I'm thrilled to finally have a dedicated use for this leather bag! Although I am not part of the ADF (for several reasons) the ADF does have a local presence and when we gather to celebrate special days this bag will be a great place to keep ones small offerings.

The only additional thing I want to make is a cloak. This will either be based on the circular cloaks in Dress and Personal Appearance  or the more probably historically accurate for the celts rectangular cloak, pinned at the shoulder and which can be worn in many ways. I had a large white cotton hospital blanket I was going to make such a cloak from,  but it wrinkles easily and my kid decided they wanted it to use as, well, a blanket. 😂 I have some grey wool blend fabric that may work well for a cloak but haven't made it a priority to make it up yet. . .I will though, probably over the winter. It's getting cold outside! My son David has told me he will help me make a pennanular  brooch to close the cloak with his forge and metal working tools.

I finished this in late October and Malachi took some pictures for me. It's still lovely in the woods though now there are far fewer leaves and it's cold. As I get older I dread the cold and the winter a little more each year and feel anxiously restless. I need to remember that this time is necessary and good so that the earth can rest before new life begins again in the Spring. I still am very much looking forward to the return of longer days and warm sunshine, though!

If anyone is interested in my experience so far in OBOD, I did start a blog for that. It's still newish but I will be reviewing the Bardic grade again this coming year and trying to organize my thoughts about it.

Much love,

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

November Shawl

It's been a quiet, cold November; a November of gentle rain and hushed smokey mornings, of mist and pale sun.

I haven't been sewing this month but I have been working on a slow crochet project. This shawl isn't anything fancy and it's almost mind-numbingly simple in it's repetition of rows but that very simplicity made it quite special as I worked on it, a little each day I could find time.

It being simple enabled me to work on it while also paying attention to other things. Somedays I worked on it almost-by-myself and thought many things, letting my mind travel inwards and beyond. Other days I worked on it while listening to YouTube documentaries or talks, especially on religious cults as well as the Adena and Hopewell mound builders (no, the two topics have no relation! 😂) I also worked on it while telling stories to the kids, especially of my own childhood and the time before they were born. This month I have been slowly working on the rather daunting task of gathering up all my old journals and diaries from my 8-year old self onward and writing a summary of my life stories, to give to my children one day. This month my goal was to get a bare outline ready to fill in later and telling stories to my children certainly helped me remember specific things in more detail and to remember other things I had long since forgot. So, crocheted into every stitch are memories of those times and all the feelings I had as I went through them.

This light, pretty yarn came to me on a hot evening in late July. It was too hot to be thinking much about cold weather but I knew I wanted to make something lovely with this yarn when I found it. Two skeins came home with me and I let it sit awhile, out of necessity, and thought about what I would make.

I decided at last to use it up and make a simple shawl, working it as big as the skeins would allow. I find that I have been using my wraps and shawls a lot lately, especially in the morning when I walk the kids to bus stop and need something I can easily throw on to dash out the door. The girls also really love wrapping up in the big shawls at night when they're watching a movie or reading a book. So, this will be used quite a lot!

I had a very tiny bit of yarn left after I finished the last row and cut it into strands to make a sparse fringe round the edges. The fringe would look  better if it were denser but, I am still happy with how it came out and happy that every bit of yarn was used!

Now if only my kitties wouldn't use it so often for a bed, I could use it for a wrap! 😂 Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my loves. There is so much to be grateful for; especially for the joy of existing right here, right now.

Much love,

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Living History at Ceasars Creek

Back in September I attended a small event at a local historic site with most of the kids. My oldest, David, decided to forgo the prospect of time-travel in favor of going to a metal workers convention with our backyard neighbor, who builds airplanes in his spare time (yes, really!) so I only had to worry about scraping together old clothes for the younger ones. Thankfully, we all had enough of everything to be outfitted appropriately for a very rural type of impression (which is my preference!).

It was a pretty last minute decision for me to go. Since it's fairly local I figured I could always leave if I needed to, at any time, and I surprised myself by really enjoying the experience and staying til the end of the day. It was a gentle, quiet, low-key event and I liked it that way. One of my favorite moments was sitting on the cabin steps with the children and reading passages of the Bible to them while Malachi sewed a button back onto his waistcoat.

Some highlights of the event for me included taking Benjamin and Rose to the outhouse mid-afternoon, and discovering that the woods around us were full of Confederate soldiers. I wasn't expecting that so the genuine feelings of surprise and unease added to a bit of a "period moment", as they say. Benjamin was intrigued by the soldiers and Rosie wanted to run back to the cover of our little camp area behind the cabin as fast as possible.

My darling Benjamin.

Not a period recipe, but "inspired by". I made this with dried figs, orange marmalade,
ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, apple cider and brown sugar.


I also enjoyed taking a long walk through the woods with Malachi and Rose in the evening. The park surrounding the village has lovely trails and we had fun exploring a few of them. On our way we passed many pawpaw trees and Rosie and I sang many repetitions of "Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch", substituting Rosie's name for "Sweet Little Susie", of course. 😁

She loved going to the water pump near the flower garden to get water. She'd recite:
"Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. . ."

Rosie took this one! I gave her the camera for a while and let her take whatever pictures she liked.
It's interesting to see the world from her perspective. I love it!

It was nice to visit with a few friends I hadn't seen for a while, and perhaps the best part of the event was meeting a friend I have known online for many years, but had never met in person up til that day. He was passing through the area so stopped in to say hello. I was so surprised and so happy to finally meet him!
A cat someone apparently left at the village! I think he found a good home with some of the volunteers!

Rosie and a little friend - and the cat!

I thought about this event for a long time after it was over and felt a little bit of interest come back for reenacting. I ordered a few new patterns to make the big boys some new garments for next year and I actually have plans to make my ball gown, at last! I'll be going to a dance in a few months so it's time to get this thing made. I bought tickets so yes, I am going to go even if I decide I'd rather not. I received my package with some cotton bobbinett and lace yesterday so now to sort out a bertha design and try to make a decent silk dress out of 5 yards of fabric. 😁 All in good time.

Much love,