Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Middle Ages

We have been so fortunate to have a medieval expert in our midst.  My good friend Johnnye spent much of her adult years recreating the middle ages with the SCA.  She is also a very talented seamstress, who has made many a wedding dress, created her own medieval clothing, taught sewing classes and much more.

During the week that we studied daily life she agreed to be our guest speaker.  It was such a treat!

Johnnye brought several items that she had left from her days of recreating including goblets and books full of patterns, shoes, clothing, headdresses and bags.  For the first half of co-op she told us about daily life including what the children might have been doing all day, the feudal system and what people would have eaten on a day to day basis if you were nobility or serfs and also what you would have found at a feast.  We were informed that vegetables were common food and the nobility didn't eat their veggies unless it was at a feast where they needed to have many dishes on the table to make an impressive display.  Otherwise only the poor ate vegetables.  It is so funny to imagine some of the platters that would have adorned their tables at a feast.  Once the chicken was cooked they would have stuck peacock or other feathers into it to make it look like it was alive still.  Or they might have a roasted piglet with the head of a rooster mounted on the front.  They were particular about having their meat cooked but it didn't occur to them at the time not to reattach raw meat to the cooked meat!

We then broke for lunch and the kids made fig pastries.  A little bit of work wrapping up all that sticky fig goo in the fillo dough.  They were tasty, though we don't think we'll be making them for the official feast at the end of the unit.

After lunch we met back in the "classroom" to learn about the clothing of the time period with a particular focus on the eleventh through fifteenth centuries.  This is the time period from which I've told the kids they can choose their costumes.

Johnnye was so kind to let the girls try on her dresses.  They each found one they liked and are going to try to copy for the big feast.

The kids all have to sew their own costumes for this event and Johnnye is kind enough to guide us in our endeavor since we are all clueless.  They've all taken their measurements and Johnnye has gone shopping with us to help us choose appropriate fabric for the time period and to also make sure we chose something that would be easy enough to work with.  We didn't stick to just wool, linen and cotton, the only fabrics available in medieval Europe,  but allowed ourselves fabrics that at least resembled these materials.  We also tried to stay close to fabric colors that could have been made at the time using natural dyes. (But I think my daughter stretched it a bit with her bright blue/green.  You'll see it in an upcoming post once she has finished making it.)  The next step is to make our patterns and begin cutting the fabric.

We have one boy in our HOW group and we are thrilled that he also was able to come up with a plan for a costume using one of the pattern books.  Johnnye just didn't have any male clothing left over from her days of recreation for him to try on.

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