I’ve been exploring a number of interesting crafts as part of being a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms or SCA for short.
SCA is a lot of fun and can be a neat way to learn about history for home school. You try to create a persona who could have lived in a particular era. What did they wear? What fabric did they use? What colors? What foods? ANYTHING having to do with living in that period is part of the fun.
I’m making a Byzantine outfit to wear to events. The Byzantine Empire was the remnant of the great Roman Empire than lasted 1000 years past the fall of Rome. There are many interesting links for this period of time. Some examples: Byzantine Civilization, Byzantine Studies at Fordham University, Met Museum Byzantium Article, and Byzantine Empire Greek link.
I chose 1000AD, during the reign of Basil II, as my target date and so the cut of the gown is something that might very well have been worn in that period by a woman of good family. I also chose to make the persona of a wealthy family of landowners and merchants from the area of the Byzantine empire around Castoria who were connected loosely to the Court in Constantinople and sent their young members to be educated in the City.
I used a pale greenish blue linen for the gown. Linen and silk were very common in that region so this is a correct fabric choice for period. I will eventually add an over-gown in silk and embroider that one but not for some time yet! I also will do a heavily embroidered half circle cloak in silk. I purchased silk to use but will have to learn to dye it using natural dyes before I make anything out of it. I need to make a silk or linen veil too as good women in that period did not go about without a cloth drapery to cover their head! I like the period veils as they are loosely wrapped and rather graceful. A couple well placed pins and it stays on too.
To trim the gown I am learning to weave narrow trim pieces using a modern Inkle loom for convenience but making a warp faced trim in colors that are likely correct for the period and in a pattern that could have been common then. So far I have made heddles from thread and the next round of fibre guild meetings will hopefully get my loom warped. It is an easy task for sitting in front of the TV in the evening and keeping one’s hands busy. Eventually I will learn to tablet weave which would also have been used a lot at that time to trim clothing.
If you like to knit, there are period methods for making stockings. 🙂
If you like to cook there are translations of old cooking texts and you can explore the types of foods that your chosen region would commonly have had, and study the Silk Road to learn about the spices that would have been imported to your area. Trying to cook dishes that a person who lived in 1000AD might have eaten! Some people even study the cooking methods and build a period oven to do their cooking.
The Silk Road is the common name for the complex of trade routes that linked the western countries to Asia. There are a lot of wonderful links: Silk Road Library, An article from a university site, The Silk Road Project, and Silk Road for Children.
I love to read about the lives of Saints, Bishops, Popes, etc. for my time period. Who were the common Saints in that period and place for devotion? Who were the people alive who LATER became Saints? Might you have MET someone in your time period and region who was recognized later in time as a Saint? What prayers were common? What music or chants were used?
I love books, so I find myself asking, “What books might my persona have owned?” I decided that she would likely have owned a gospel and perhaps a book of prayers and devotions.
What were lives like? What would a girl in 1000AD have done as chores in the home? What sort of education did girls receive in your period? In Byzantium around that time period, the daughters of well off families were educated much the same way as the sons but were not likely to wander the streets talking with their teachers. So I gave my persona three older brothers of various levels of scholarly inclination who would teach her in the evenings. During the day, she was in charge of the women who were weaving fabrics for family use.
A persona of her era would expect to marry and her dowry would include silks and linens of all sorts since in Byzantium people were even PAID in fabric and what you wore was literally a declaration of your economic level! So when St. John Chrysostom told the ladies to sell off some of their expensive fabrics and jewels for the sake of modesty he was telling them to give up social status! No wonder they were upset with him. To give up the good clothing could drop their standing in society down and eliminate their children from being considered for good jobs and from advantageous marriages.
Not every place and time educated girls. Some places only the aristocracy would be educated. In Byzantium during the middle period of the empire any family who could afford to educate all members did so. It was a time of flowering of culture and education for the people even in the midst of constant border wars and skirmishes to keep the Muslims from taking more Christian territory.
Lost to the West is my favorite single book on the history because it makes the people real!! Eventually I will do a blog entry on books for anyone wanting to study this period. I’ve maybe 50 that I have purchased and read so the plan is to write a brief review of perhaps half a dozen of them that might be good choices for home school.
I like how alive history becomes when learned this way.