Sunday, 9 October 2016


Back when Boss Laurel and I set up this apprenticeship malarkey, there were terms and conditions. One of the things I had to do was make myself an apprentice belt. (Context for the non-SCA readers - there's a tradition within the Society that apprentices wear belts, usually green, to mark their status. Frequently the belt is a gift from the Laurel to the apprentice, but not always.)

The belt didn't have to be green, in my case, but I had to make it myself. And when I say "make it myself", I mean I had to do all the steps the craftsperson would have done in the Middle Ages. So, had I made a leather belt, I could have bought a metal buckle, but I'd probably have had to tan my own leather.

The mission was further complicated by two things. One - I don't like wearing belts. Two - I already have two green apprentice belts, both of which were gifts from dear friends and are what I wear all the time. So whatever I made needed to be not at all belt-like and also not duplicate the function of either of the others I already own.

I put the whole thing on the back burner, mostly to give myself time to mull it over and figure out what I'd actually wear. Then the 16th century happened and I basically made myself a new court outfit in the style of the English 1540s. What I never did get around to making for it was a jewelled girdle, because jewelry-making is WAY outside my comfort zone. Also, it's expensive, and it's hard to find table-cut gemstones.

Then I came across this portrait and found another option:
Copyright the Royal Collection
Specifically, this bit of it:
Looking at it closely, it's essentially a string of pearls with a chain and medallion hanging off the front. Even I can manage that!

I set off to my favourite crack dealer needlework supply shop and came home with an assortment of artificial pearls, gold beads, and gold chain. I had considered threading all of it on silk, but I want this to be sturdy enough to survive more than one event, so I decided to buy tiger tail. The nylon component is modern, but jewelry on wire is accurate.

Once I got home, I spent mumble-mumble hours with a bead reamer smoothing the insides of the beads. Again, this is for long-term survival of the girdle - any sharp edges run the risk of wearing through the wire.

There's no clasp visible in the painting, but it has to fasten somehow. I've used a hook and eye and put them at the front of the pearl strand - it'll be easier to put the girdle on, and it means I can use the hook to attach the chain and pendant.

I've used the gold beads to space out the pearls because the shop didn't have enough pearls in the right size to fit my waist.

The pendant is a silver and garnet Christmas decoration my mother bought me in Istanbul years ago. It needs a good polish, but it's pretty and does a good impression of the pomander pendants on many of the girdles shown in portraits.

And finally, the finished girdle.

Photos with the full outfit next month - it takes nearly an hour to get into it, and I need assistance from someone better with hoopskirts than my spouse!

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