Friday, January 23, 2009

What I'm trying to accomplish as Lady Patricia of Trakai

In my five years of participation in the SCA, I've dabbled in a lot of different activities, some more so than others. I've made a few garments, I wove/braided/knitted several wire necklaces (in a technique some call trichinopoly), I've learned about the historical uses of knitting, I've brewed a few concoctions of varying quality, and I've tried to learn nallbinding and sprang. At the moment, I'm probably most active in instrumental music. (When I sing around a campfire, people tend to drift away to another campfire.)

But I have one overarching mission, one to which I alluded in my introductory post: I want to increase and spread the knowledge of Lithuanian history and culture within the SCA.

The method of "spreading" knowledge is obvious -- teaching classes at our SCA "universities" -- but what about increasing knowledge? As someone who is partly of Lithuanian heritage, I've been aware all my life that most Americans (from whose ranks the SCA draws much, though not all, of its membership) hardly know anything about Lithuania. During the Soviet era, it was one of the most closed regions of the USSR, and it was difficult if not impossible for Americans to get permission to visit the region unless they had relatives there. Fortunately, Lithuania regained its independence right around the time that Internet technologies exploded in the early 1990s, so suddenly I was learning about stuff I'd wondered about all my life.

Since its inception, the SCA has been mostly about Western European medieval culture -- it's what we all learned about as we were growing up, and it's the inspiration for countless fantasy novels and movies. However, as our modern society has grown more diverse and less Eurocentric, SCAdians are exploring all sorts of other cultures that interacted with Western Europe prior to 1600 (or 1650, depending on how you define "pre-17th-century").

For Eastern European countries and cultures, the umbrella group within the SCA is the Slavic Interest Group (SIG). SIG covers a huge swath of territory, from the Balkans and Poland to Kievan Rus to the central Asian steppes. I've been on the SIG e-mail list for a few years now, and I've found a few other Polish-Lithuanian enthusiasts -- from as far away as Australia (Lady Asfridhr of the Barony of Stormhold in the Kingdom of Lochac).

So far, I've learned enough about Lithuania to teach an hour-long "introductory" class (again, see the link in the first post in this blog). The warm reception I got for both classes (at Pennsic, it was SRO!) has convinced me that there is an interest in the topic -- at least, the title of the class gets people in the door to see what they've missed in all the other medieval history courses they've taken throughout their lives. But I feel as if I've only scratched the surface.

What do we mean by "Lithuania"? The incorporated borders of the modern-day nation? The farthest extent of the Grand Duchy, which stretched to the Black Sea? The ancient tribes who inhabited the Baltic coast -- the Letts, Semigallans, Livonians, Curonians, etc? Watch for my future posts on the subject.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Countdown to Twelfth Night

It takes quite a bit of work to get out the door and head to a major event like Kingdom Twelfth Night. You don't just jump into the car and drive off.

I've already accomplished some of the prep work: hand-washing my chemise, purchasing some finger foods to nibble on during the day (because our hosts are not offering lunch, only dinner), printing out some sheet music that I don't already have, and printing out the directions to the site in Virginia.

Tonight I will have to:

  • press the parts of my chemise that will show when I'm wearing the dress, and probably press some of the cloth napkins
  • check the silk dress to see if it needs touch-up pressing
  • check feast gear to make sure it's all clean (sometimes it gets dusty)
  • pack garb, feast gear, and musical instruments/supplies and get them out to the car TONIGHT because it's supposed to be rainy tomorrow
  • make sure the perishable products are grouped together in the refrigerator so that I can grab them tomorrow morning.

Here is my packing list:

  • the three pieces of my Cavalier outfit (jacket, shirt and chemise -- see previous post)
  • the Cavalier hat (for indoors) and a felted wool hat (for possible rain outdoors)
  • my wool cloak (needs some repairs, but it's what I have right now)
  • pearl earrings and necklace; Opal medallion
  • extra pair of shoes for dealing with the weather
  • feast gear in its basket
  • cameras (video and still)
  • small basket (for carrying small items around the site)
  • musical instruments and accoutrements
  • small cooler with snacks and the rest of the Diet Peach Snapple in the back of the fridge
  • directions to the site
  • maybe the olive-oil lamp (but then I have to bring olive oil).

Quite a bit of stuff, huh? And this is only a day trip to an indoor site!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cavalier outfit

I'd like to write a little bit about the outfit I'll be wearing for Kingdom Twelfth Night.
This dress was made in the Cavalier style, which actually existed in the early to mid-17th century (see this page). That makes it a bit post-period in terms of the SCA, which generally covers the sweep of human history prior to 1600 C.E. (In other words, the time span ends with the Elizabethan era, since England's Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603.) However, I wore this outfit to Kingdom Twelfth Night 2007 and I got no complaints, just lots of compliments. It's stunning enough that nobody seemed to get bent out of shape.
The jacket, chemise and skirt were hand-sewn by a woman who played in the SCA and other reenactment groups before giving up the historical stuff to go to law school. Sadly, I do not know her name. When she was preparing for law school, she passed along some of her outfits to Dame Brenna of Storvik, who sold them for her at an SCA event in northern Atlantia.

The jacket and skirt are made of rose-colored silk (silk noil, maybe?) and have gold-colored trim. The jacket uses hooks and eyes to stay closed; I attached some extra-large hooks and eyes to make sure the thing stays closed. The chemise is white cotton; the lace on the collar appears to be hand-made by somebody, but the lace on the cuffs seems to be of commercial provenance.
Mostly this outfit fits me amazingly well, considering that I never met its creator. The one small detail is that I can't button the jacket cuffs because my forearms are too fat, but I hope the large cuffs on the chemise disguise that. Perhaps I should get some fabric sizing to make the chemise cuffs a little stiffer.
To accessorize the outfit, I purchased a black Cavalier hat from Tall Toad Costumes and added a rose-colored feather. I also purchased a pearl necklace from a jewelry-maker at Kingdom Twelfth Night 2007; sorry, I cannot remember the name.
I'm looking forward to an enjoyable Twelfth Night this year, and I'll try to remember to ask Dame Brenna for the name of the costumer.

Introductory post

Welcome! I'm Lady Patricia of Trakai. I've been in the SCA for five years, all of which have been spent in the Barony of Storvik, part of the northern lands of the Kingdom of Atlantia.

I serve as my barony's branch herald and as chronicler to the Atlantian College of Heralds (meaning I edit the bimonthly newsletter, "Herald's Point"). I dabble in a lot of the arts and sciences: instrumental music, Viking wire knitting/weaving (trichinopoly), cross-stitch, kumihimo, and garb sewing.

To speed things up, here are links to my SCA resume ( and the handout from the class I have taught about Lithuania at both Pennsic University and the University of Atlantia (

My intent for this blog is to use it for sharing my ongoing SCA projects with other people.