Winter AS XL (2005)
Volume XI, Issue 2 (#40)

From the Nachalnik

While it is more than a half year away, it is time to start thinking about Pennsic again and, in particular, if anyone would like to host the SIG gathering there. I have once again changed jobs, so the chances that I will make it to War this upcoming year remain remote. So, I am soliciting a volunteer to host the annual party. The requirements are fairly minor, and it can be hosted at a private campsite or (with some pre-arrangement) at a more public location. Contact me or other previous hosts if you want to know more about what is involved.

This Fall, Yana set up an interactive map of SIG members on Frappr. If you’d like to list yourself on the map (or just see who folks are and where they live), you can take a look at

Orthodox Ecclesiastical Embroidery
Part One: History and Background

By Ivan Matfeevich Rezansky

[Author’s Note: I recently finished reproducing a 16th century Russian pelena, or embroidered icon hanging. This article is the result of that project and the accompanying research. This first part discusses the origins of Orthodox ecclesiastical embroidery in Byzantium and its adoption in medieval Russia. Subsequent articles will discuss the methods of construction used in period, and the process that went into my reproduction]

From the earliest days of the Christian church, fabric arts and embroidery were an important element in the Holy Rites. From wall hangings to ecclesiastical outfits, embroidery became a central form of religious decoration, and was a common theme carried from Rome and Byzantium to the furthest reaches of the Christian church.

Early members of the Christian church most likely adopted the practice of using fabric and embroidery to decorate their holy spaces from Greek and Roman temples. In the first few hundred years, when Christians were still persecuted and it was impossible to have a permanent church structure, rich fabric must have been a convenient, portable method to decorate and solemnize any spot chosen to hold services. As Christianity became legitimized and permanent churches began to appear, these textile elements became more richly decorated. Altar cloths were used to decorate the sanctuary, and Aërs were used to cover the sacred vessels during Communion. Curtains were suspended between the pillars around the altar; by closing these curtains, the priests could preserve the secrecy of the most sacred moments of the liturgy (later, these curtains would evolve into the iconostasis)

As early as the fourth century, religious vestments based on late Roman and Greek attire also became ritualized within the Church, and remained relatively static until today. For example, we see the chiton of ancient Greece preserved as the Greek sticharion (alb), and cloaks worn during the late Roman period preserved as the phelonion (chasuble or cope). Symbolic meanings attributed to these articles of attire contributed to this ritualization and focused attention to particular elements as worthy of decoration. Epimanikia (manacles), which began as simple bands of trim about the sleeves of early sticharia, were said to represent the restraints placed on Christ when he was taken before Pilate. Over time, they developed into heavily embroidered detachable cuffs. The epitrachelion (stole), a long strip that hung across the shoulders and down the front of the outfit, was used to distinguish a deacon from a priest. Some believe this item symbolizes the rope placed around Christ’s neck when he was led to trial. These and other elements of the clerical vestments were heavily decorated with religious imagery emphasizing their ritual significance.

Festal scenes were an important theme in ecclesiastical art, including embroidery, due to their central role in Christian belief. The festal cycle is comprised of twelve events from the Gospels and the book of Acts. Although the exact set of twelve vary from set to set, the most frequently seen images are: The Annunciation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, the Baptism of Christ, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Crucifixion, the Anastasis (also known as the Harrowing of Hell), the Ascension, Pentecost, and the Dormition of the Virgin. It was common for larger embroidered works such as altar cloths to incorporate the events of the festal cycle in a border around the central work, which might be image of a saint or other scene, although they were also depicted individually.

In 988, Prince Vladimir of Kiev adopted Christianity as the official state religion for Kievan Rus’. Almost immediately, Byzantine artists began traveling to Rus’, bringing along their artistic skills to adorn Kiev’s new churches with fresco, mosaic, and icons in the Byzantine style. Russian artisans soon took up these skills, and Rus’ began to produce its own works of religious art. Ecclesiastical embroidery seems to have been quickly adopted and prized by the Russian church. As early as 1183, the chronicle of the Vladimir Uspensky Cathedral mentions that fire destroyed “many items of cloth decorated with gold and pearls, which were hung out on holidays.” As in Byzantium, embroidered works were highly valued, passed down from generation to generation, and were frequently dedicated and donated to churches or monasteries by royalty and the wealthy. They were also traded or gifted abroad – the Ksilurga monastery on Mount Athos in Greece records that it received embroidered works from Rus’ as early as the 12th century, and in the 16th century, the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos records receiving an embroidered curtain for the Royal Doors of an iconostasis sent by Ivan the Terrible.

As in Byzantine works, Russian religious embroideries typically displayed holy figures and festal scenes, although Russian tastes created some stylistic differences. The sixteenth century represented the height of this style of embroidery, especially with the move of the Orthodox Church patriarchate from Byzantium to Moscow. After this period, embroidery saw a thematic shift toward works more ornamental in style. Works from the 17th century reflect a tendency toward the Baroque, emphasizing leaf or geometric forms. While the scenic embroidery style was at its height, however, it represented one of the most noteworthy and beautiful art forms in both medieval Byzantine and Russian culture. In the next article, we will explore the methods of construction used by Byzantine and Russian embroiderers to produce these works of art.

•Johnstone, Pauline. The Byzantine Tradition in Church Embroidery. London: Alec Tiranti, Ltd., 1967.
•Lazarev, Viktor Nikitich. The Russian Icon: From Its Origins to the Sixteenth Century. Trans. C. J. Dees. Collegeville MN: The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., 1996.
•Lowden, John. Early Christian & Byzantine Art. London: Phaidon Press, Ltd., 1997.
•Maiasova, N. A. Drevnerusskoe Shit’e. Moscow: Isskustvo, 1971.
•Manushina, Tat’iana Nikolaevna. Khudozhestvennoe shit’e drevnei rusi v sobranii Zagorskogo muzeia. Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1983.
•Martin, Linette. Sacred Doorways: A Beginner’s Guide to Icons. Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2002.

Russian Soft Cheese and Cheese Blinky in the Russian Medieval Kitchen

By Liudmila Vladimirova doch’

It seems like medieval Russians were determined to prevent anyone in the future from reliably recreating their way of life. They knew no secular portraiture, preserved for posterity very few items of clothing, and didn’t bother to write cookbooks. Thus, we have very few sources for discovering what the people of Moscovite or Kievan Rus’ actually ate, and even fewer ways for learning how they prepared it.

First, there is archeological record of petrified foodstuffs, such as grains of buckwheat, peas, or raspberry seeds found in Novgorod, or bones found in Moscow and Novgorod. Then there are chronicles that sometimes, when talking about grand feasts or trade agreements, mentioned particular foods. Some of these chronicles contain miniatures with images of such feasts, or very rare images of food preparation. Unfortunately, like the 16th century miniature depicted here, the images tend to have very little food in them. In addition to the chronicles, written period sources include Novgorod birchbark letters, various ledgers, and, most importantly, the 16th century text known as the Domostroi (Homebuilder). The Domostroi, while not an actual cookbook, contains recipes, menus, and other food-related advice among its housekeeping and gentle behavior recommendation for the upper classes. Russian-origin records are supplemented by notes and diaries of foreign visitors to Rus, such as Sigismund von Herberstein or Gilbert de Lannua who visited Novgorod in 1413. Finally, there are post-period recipes for archaic dishes, which Russian food historians such as Pokhlebkin believe to be very close to medieval versions.



Cooking Equipment and Utensils
The specifics of Russian medieval cooking depend on the Russian stove, pech’. The pech’ served as a heating source as well as for cooking, and usually doubled as a bed. The early (9th-13th century) pech’ was round and built of clay, with pots (also made of clay) sitting on top, dipping towards the heat source. Starting in the 13th century, the pech’ became rectangular, with a domed opening for the fire chamber and flat hearth bottom. Most of these early pech’ had no chimney, though by the 17th century no family with means had a “black” pech’.

The pech’ was heated with firewood, and food cooked inside both during and after heating. Thus, many food preparation techniques, impossible today, depended on cooking food in the very gradually cooling pech’.

<==== Pech’ kurnaya (without a chimney, smoky)



A pech’ with a chimney ==>


Gorshki (sing. gorshok), 10th -13th centuries (though the form remained stable into modern times)

A ceramic pot called a gorshok was placed in the pech’ and surrounded with hot coals. They were only sparingly ornamented. Milk for cheese making would be put in such gorshki in order to ferment.


Latki (sing. latka) or zharovnia

Latki were oval or round ceramic dishes with low sides and a flat bottom, with a pouring spout for fat removal. Some had hollow clay handles into which long wooden shafts could fit. These were used for frying or stewing in the Russian pech’. For example, bliny and blinki would be prepared in these latki.

Blinki and Cheese in Old Russia
Bliny, a kind of leavened pancakes, were a staple of Russian cooking for serfs and boyars alike in the 16th and 17th centuries (and probably before and certainly after that time), especially around Lent. They are tricky to make properly, and have to be eaten right away, which makes them an unacceptable choice for a tourney dish. On the other hand, their unleavened cousins, known in period as blinki or blintsy (or in modern Russia as blinchiki and in the US as “blintzes”) are easier, can be eaten hot or cold, keep well, and are very versatile. Depending on the filling, they can be the main dish, the appetizer, or the dessert! In this article, blinki are presented refried with either Russian-style farmer’s cheese or mushroom fillings, as well as plain to be filled before eating with smoked salmon or red caviar. They are accompanied by sour cream, to be used as a sauce poured over the filled blinki. These could have all been served during Lent in upper class households of 16th and 17th century Russia.

In its extensive lists of foods to be served at various times, the Domostroi mentions blinki or blintsy on multiple occasions. For Lent, it also recommends serving “syrniki s yaitsy i s syrom” (syrniki with eggs or homemade farmer’s cheese). According to the Domostroi’s editors, syrniki were blinki filled with cheese, like cheese blintzes. There is also a suggestion for bliny syrnyie which were probably bliny made with cheese in the batter, like modern Russian syrniki. All the fillings served today are also mentioned in the Domostroi: smoked salmon, red caviar, farmer’s cheese (or tvorog as it is called today), mushrooms, and sour cream. Blinki with cheese are also enhanced with raisins, which were readily available in Russia after Ivan the Terrible’s annexation of Mongol khanates of Kazan (1552-1557) and Astrakhan (1556). The Domostroi also mentions raisins as an addition to mead.

Modern blintzes can be fried using any plant-derived oil and refried in butter. The Domostroi refers to dishes fried in flaxseed and nut oils. Therefore, hazelnut oil should be preferred for approximating period blinki, since hazelnuts do grow in Russia and are known as wild nuts (oreshnik). Since sugar was not known in Russia in period, honey should be used instead as sweetener for the cheese filling. Liquid honey (patoka) was frequently used in the Domostroi’s recipes.

Syr, a soft cheese later known as tvorog, was a part of Russian cooking for serfs and boyars alike during the 16th-17th centuries, and was known from at least the 12th century, and used especially around Lent. It could be eaten as is, mixed or beaten with sour cream, combined with eggs and flour into bliny syrnyie, or used as filling for pies and blintzes. These could have all been served during Lent or at other times in upper class households of 16th-17th centuries Russia.

The recipes of the Domostroi do not concern themselves with things like syr, which every woman was probably expected to know how to make. The only advice it gives regarding syr is that it has to be stored carefully in the cellar, along with other provisions. However, in its extensive lists of foods to be served at various times, the Domostroi mentions syr and dishes involving syr on several occasions.

The Oldest Available Recipes for Cheese and Blinky
The oldest version of a tvorog or syr recipe available is from Yelena Molokhovets’s A Gift to Young Housewives, first published in 1861 and quoted below from the 1992 translation by Joyce Toomre. This recipe, however, proposes to make “white cheese” from tvorog and sour cream. This preparation involves making tvorog, salting it, and drying it. I believe that fresh tvorog is so good that it should be considered all by itself, and I am also not sure that Molokhovets’s preparation would have been done in period. It seems that most of the Domostroi’s mentions of syr refer to fresh tvorog, not the one salted and hardened. However, here is the relevant portion of Molokhovets’s recipe:

“Fresh, whole milk poured, as usual, in an earthenware jug will sour after standing for several days in a warm place, and turn into yogurt, i.e., the whey will begin to separate from the curds. The soured cream may be blended with the milk or, better yet, left undisturbed and put as is into a summer oven that is not too hot (about 40 degrees Reaumur), such as after baking bread. If the oven is too hot and causes the milk suddenly to turn into curd cheese, the resulting cheese will be reddish, crumbly, and foul-tasting.”

Curd cheese prepared in this manner should be taken out of the oven and completely cooled in the same jugs before being transferred to a conical sack. Let the whey drain off, place the sack with the cheese onto a sloping table, and weight the sack with a wooden board and a stone – start with a light stone, and add a heavier one later. After several hours, when the whey has completely drained into a container placed below the edge of a sloping table, remove the cheese from the bag and salt it slightly. The recipe goes on to describe the preparations for making hard cheese.

The oldest version of a blinchiki recipe available is also from Molokhovets’s Gift to Young Housewives, and entitled, “Ordinary pancakes, otherwise known as crepes” (Proportions for 6-8 persons):

Mix until smooth 2 eggs and 2 glasses flour and gradually add 3 glasses milk and some salt. Strew a skillet with salt, heat it, and wipe with a towel. Grease with refined oil or a piece of pork fat, reheat the pan, pour on 1 spoon of batter to cover the bottom of the skillet, and place on top of the stove. When the pancake begins to rise, loosen it from the skillet and remove it after it has cooked on one side. Grease the skillet with a feather, pour in more batter, etc. These crepes are served with any kind of filling, such as meat, farmer’s cheese, etc. Crepes must be thoroughly fried on both sides before being used for any kind of round loaf (karavai) or pudding.

Making Russian Cheese
A problem of making syr here is that all of the milk comes in homogenized and pasteurized form, and will simply go bad instead of producing cheese curds. In Ukraine tvorog was always made in a manner very similar to that prescribed by Molokhovets, substituting enameled pots for earthenware jugs and suspending cheese in cheesecloth instead of pressing it. My mother and I discovered the milk problem upon our arrival here, and learned from experience that store-bought buttermilk produces cheese practically identical to the tvorog we used to make. The difference is in the fat content, as the buttermilk is only available low fat, and the milk we used before was always whole, just like the milk used in Middle Ages. I currently use Alta Dena buttermilk in half gallon cartons to make tvorog for my family.

The procedure is quite simple, and since I lack kitchen space to arrange for slopping table and the press, I retained my family’s way of draining the cheese. Also, since I do not have a Russian stove where the curdled milk would be placed in its earthenware gorshok in 16th century, I use a water bath to warm the buttermilk in its carton:

After buying buttermilk, you can leave it stand in its carton out of the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. Note that the longer it sits out, the dryer and crumblier your end product will be. Then, I place the cartons into a large (10 gallon) pot and fill it with warm tap water up to the top edges of the cartons. I open the cartons so that I may follow the curdling process, and place the pot on the stove. I have an electric stove, so I have to set the burner to medium high. A gas-stove burner would have to be set to high. The buttermilk has to stay in the water bath until the curds begin to solidify and separate from the whey, which can be determined by sight and by touch. Unfortunately, there is no time limit on this procedure, because it depends on the freshness and quality of the buttermilk and the original water temperature, both of which vary now as they probably would in the 16th century. It is important not to let the water boil until the curds are almost ready, however. If they get overdone, the cheese will be too dry and crumbly though perhaps not foul tasting. When ready, the cartons are pulled out of the water and set in the sink to cool down completely. Then, I poke a hole at the bottom with a paring knife to let most of the whey out. This is similar to Molokhovets’s conical sack procedure. Finally, I dump the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth square, pull up and tie the corners of the square, and suspend the resulting bundle over my sink overnight. In the morning the cheese can be removed from cheesecloth and eaten or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. I recommend eating it in a Domostroi-approved manner with sour cream (Russian style sour cream can be found in Russian stores, though Daisy sour cream is good too) and liquid honey (patoka in the Domostroi), or Russian sour cherry preserves. Alternatively, you can use it to fill blinki as described below.

Making Blinki
For my period-approximating blinki, I use an old recipe passed down through generation of women in my family, and at least as old as Molokhovets’s. It is very similar to hers in technique, except that it uses water instead of milk, and therefore needs more eggs. I tried both, and I find that water makes lighter pancakes that keep better, and thus would be preferable for a tourney dish:

• 6 eggs
• 4 tablespoons flour per egg (24 total)
• 1 liter of water
• Some salt
• Hazelnut oil (or other plant oil) for frying
•(I usually add some baking soda, but it is not period)

Beat the eggs together while gradually adding flour, one tablespoon at a time. When the consistency is between that of condensed milk and hot oatmeal, add water gradually. Add salt to taste. Preheat a skillet or a griddle on high and rub it with some oil using a paper towel or a basting brush (a clean feather would work too, if available). Pour some batter on the skillet and roll the skillet to spread the batter so that it covers the bottom in thin layer. Fry on one side until the edges begin to separate. For blinki after the first one, pour a drop of oil into the gap between the blinok and the skillet, and roll the skillet to spread it. Flip the blinok over and fry briefly on the other side. Remove from skillet, and place so that the most fried side is at the top if it is meant for refrying. Allow to cool (complete cooling is not necessary).

To fill the blinki, spread about a tablespoon of filling in a thick line a bit away from an edge, without it reaching the edges (see picture). Fold the edge over the filling, and fold the side edges in, over it. Roll the blinok up, creating a flattened cylinder. Heat up a clean skillet on medium heat and add some butter. Place the rolled blinki on the skillet, edge side down, and fry until golden. Flip over and fry until golden on the other side. Serve hot or cold (depending on the filling), with sour cream if desired. These blinki may be made in advance and kept in your “ice cellar” for a couple of days, if needed.

For the filling of Russian cheese (tvorog):

• 1 pound of homemade Russian cheese, or Russian-style farmer’s cheese (available from Russian grocery stores)
• 1/2 cup of raisins
• 1/4 cup of honey

Mix all the ingredients together, adding honey if more sweetness is desired


If you desire savory blinki instead of sweet, try mushroom filling popular in Russia at all times:

• 1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms (Golden Chanterelles, which are - or resemble - Russian lisichki, were used in period)
• 1 large onion, diced
• 1 tablespoon of sour cream
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 tablespoons of nut oil (walnut oil here)

In a skillet, heat oil on high heat and add the onions. Sauté the onions, stirring often, until golden. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add sour cream, stir, and on lower heat sauté for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mushrooms to cool a little before placing in blintzes. May be made in advance.

Domostroi. Edited by V.V. Kolesov and V.V. Rozhdestvenskaia. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1994. [Note: There is an English translation by Carolyn Pouncy, but is inadequate]
•Pokhlebkin, V. V. Bolshaia entsiklopedia kulinarnogo isskustva [Great Encyclopedia of the Culinary Arts]. Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf, 2003.
•Shangina, I. I. Russkii traditsionnii byt [Russian Traditional Life]. St. Petersburg: Azbuka-Klassika, 2003.
•Sudakov, G. V. “Monastyrskaia trapeza v 16 veke [Monastic Meals in the 16th Century]” in Kirillov kraevedcheskiy almanakh, T. III. Vologda: Legia, 1998. Online at
•Toomre, J. S. Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets’s A Gift to Young Housewives. Translated, introduced, and annotated by Joyce Toomre. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Imeniny [Name Days] in Christian Rus

By Aryenne bat David Halevi de Troyes

In Christian Rus (11th century onward), imeniny (name day) celebrations largely replaced birthday celebrations. One’s imeniny was simply the day of the saint whose name one bore. A child was given a Christian name of the saint whose day was closest to the child’s birthday, in the hope that the child would adopt some of the virtues of the saint and emulate him. The imeniny were celebrated with one’s extended family (or the entire community, when the local pastor or patron was involved), with token gifts and a high point of a feast. The dinner feast tended to include multiple courses, and a variety and plenty of dishes were strived for whenever possible.

The following is a partial calendar of the more popular saints in the Russian Orthodox churches, and the days on which they are honored, for anyone who may choose to follow the custom. [Note: These dates are presented in Old Style (Julian calendar). To convert to New Style (Gregorian calendar), subtract thirteen days]

Adrian September 8   Leo (Lev) March 3
Alex (Aleksei) March 30   Liubov’ September 30
Alexander September 12   Luke (Luka) October 24
Anastasia January 4   Magdalene (Magdalina) August 4
Andrew of Crete (Andrei) July 17   Maksim February 3
Andrew the Apostle (Andrei) December 13   Marina July 30
Anne (Anna) February 16, August 7, September 12   Mark May 8
Anthony (Antonii, Anton) July 23   Markian November 7
Aretha (Areta) November 6   Marta (Marfa) July 17
Barbara (Varvara) December 17   Martin April 27
Basil (Vasilii) January 30, April 4   Mary (Mariia) April 7 or 14, August 28
Bogdan July 30   Matthew (Matfei) August 22
Boris August 6   Melania (Melan’ia) January 13
Catherine (Ekaterina) December 7   Methodius (Metodii) April 19
Charity (Kharytia) September 30   Michael (Mikhail) November 21
Christina February 6, August 6   Miron August 30
Constantine (Konstiantin) June 3   Nadezhda September 30
Cyril (Kirill) February 26   Neonila November 10
Damian (Dam’ian) November 14   Nester November 9
Daniel (Daniil) December 24,
December 30
  Nicholas (Nikolai) December 19
Daria (Dar'ia) April 1   Ol’ga July 24
David July 9   Orest December 26
Demetrios (Dmitrii) November 8   Paul of Thebes (Pavel) January 28
Eugene (Evgenii) December 26   Paul the Apostle (Pavel) July 12
Gabriel (Gavriil) July 13   Peter (Petr) July 12
George (Iurii, Georgii) May 6   Philip (Filipp) October 24
Gregory (Grigorii) February 7   Roman December 1
Helen (Elena) June 3   Sebastian (Sevast’ian) December 31
Ilarion November 3   Simon February 16,
September 14
Irene (Irina) May 18   Sophia (Sof’ia) September 30
Ireneus (Irinei) July 11   Stephan (Stepan) January 9
Isidore (Isidor/a) February 17   Sylvester (Silvestr) January 15
Jacob (Iakov) December 10   Taras (Tarasii) March 10
Jeremy (Ieremiia) June 13   Tetiana (Tat’iana) January 25
John (Ioann, Ivan) May 21   Theodore (Feodor) March 2
John the Apostle October 9   Theodosia (Feodosiia) March 16
John the Baptist July 7   Thomas (Foma) July 20, October 19
John the Golden Tongue November 26   Timothy (Timofei) February 4
Josaphat (Ioasaf) November 25   Vasilii January 14
Joseph (Iosif) January 8   Vera September 30
Julia (Iuliia) July 28   Victor November 24
Julian (Iul’ian, Iulii) July 4   Vladimir July 28
Justin (Iustin) June 14   Zenon (Zinovii) September 16
Kseniia February 6      
Larisa April 8      
Lawrence August 23      

Seasonal Ideas for Eastern European Personae

By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

Seasonal Armament Ideas for Eastern Persona Fighters
The other day I was browsing through the various Russian and Turkish Museum Collection books in my collection and a curious thought occurred to me. For all the growing interest in things Eastern European, Russian, Ta’tar and Turkish I’m beginning to see at events, a key facet of human nature has failed to surface, that is, imitation between cultures. Maybe in the race to develop our personae we have missed out on what other period groups seem to have embraced?

An example on the web that I noticed was on another listserver based on 17th C Polish hussars, specifically the smaller numbers of participants but more focused development of the accouterments and overall package. For example, many Turks and Ta’tars used a lightweight dished round shield called a kalkan. Utilizing a metal center boss and a wrapped strip of fig fiber sewn in a concentric, dished coiled strip to form a round shield. Better examples were painted with a geometric, balanced foliate pattern. Very striking but probably a “lost” art form. Then I thought, “wait, I can make one and the winter season is the perfect time to get a key item – yes, a round, dished sled!

Depending on your local Kingdom rules and the use you intend for it, the sled could be plastic, aluminum or metal. Next, rough grit sand paper or a wire wheel attachment to roughen up the outer surface to allow the glue to stick better. Mark the area of the center boss on the shield. Then, paint on the glue of choice and start placing your rope of choice within that marked circle and working outward in circles. Feel free to use a round of card board so the first circle is perfectly round and remove it after several circles of rope are glued down. Finish to the edge of the shield and use half inch rope of smaller. Lightly tamp down the rope to insure a close fit to the shield and let dry for a couple days.

After those few days have passed, paint the shield in the pattern you want. Most period examples had a solid color as a base with geometric foliage patterns, either radiating out from the boss or inwards towards it. After that has been touched up and dried to your satisfaction, attach the center boss to the shield, drilling through rope coils. Then use four disks the size of silver dollars drilled out in the center for the two straps. I always thought that hand zils would work well for this! If you really want to secure the rope coils then drill through the shield between the coils and lace them on. Adds to the weight but also to the look!

Lightweight Bowsock and Quiver Set
A common problem with leather, other than the expense, is that it requires a fair amount of care to avoid that musty armor bag smell after exposure to rain or humidity, to say nothing of mold. In addition, it can be heavy, particularly after repeated applications of leather preservative. Too much and the leather is too supple. Not enough and it gets moldy. It’s a problem but that doesn’t need to be the case for you!

For the eastern persona archer, a fabric covering instead of leather is an unexplored option which is simultaneously lightweight, resistant to mold and cost effective. Best of all, it’s fast and easy to make, easy to repair with minimal effort and requires nothing not already available to your local costumer! Use cloth reinforced with felt, plastic or even wooden skewers! To put this in context, many costumers use these materials to make hats that are durable, lightweight and economical. Any archer can tell you that the main purposes of a bowsock are transport, protection and as a personalized accessory that makes a statement about your interests and skills in the Society.

So, buy a newspaper and lay out 6-7 double pages flat, placing your strung bow on one side and folding the other half over it, the fold resting on the string. Staple along the limb and about 1-2” out for a snug fit. Pinch it closer with your fingers as you experiment pulling it in and out of the sock. When you have a snugness of fit comfortable to you, staple it and work your way down until you have a pattern you like. Trim the bowsock mouth in whatever shape you see fit, be it period or not. Repeat the process for the quiver, be it flat, tube and/or lipped with 8-10 arrows. Staple and trim to whatever shape you find acceptable. It should be snug but loose enough to slip in a finger or two to leave room for the stiffening material and lining fabric. Just cut off the excess with a scissors and leave a seam allowance!

After pulling the staples you now have an accurate pattern, which you will want to reinforce with a 1-2” gap along each edge, including on each side of the center fold. This will allow the needed amount of flex and give for an easy pull or insertion of your bow while also maintaining the shape. For the quiver, maintain a quarter inch to half inch gap from the seam, unless a stiff tube shape is needed. I prefer a layer of craft felt on each side of cotton or plastic canvas mesh, when quilting skewers isn’t practical. Both are cheap, both are easily available at any Wal-Mart in the fabric section and neither rots easily or weighs very much! Repairs require a seam ripper, needle and thread, all under $3.00 at any store. You just need a belt loop sewn onto the top corner and another 8-10” lower and fitted for your comfort. If you use the same or different fabric on each side of your bowsock and quiver set you have instant capability for right of left handed archer usage! Any extra decoration is a matter or personal taste, finances and accessibility, all of which are never further than the internet these days!

The Portable Sunshade on the Cheap
After yet another summer spent baking in the sun and ducking under any available sunshade at hand, my thoughts turned to next summer, my persona development and portability. So, after a friend of mine returned my Persian and Turkish Illustration books recently I was leafing through the pages admiring the beauty and artistry when I happened across a scene depicting a portable sunshade in umbrella form. The wheels slowly began to creak, and picked up speed this past weekend when I was in a local Lowes and realized that patio table sunshades are at huge discounts currently, if you can find them.

Ask your local blacksmith what a “portable hole” is. Essentially it’s a length of barstock shaped like a stake with a spur to step on and tow loops above to hold a pole, usually a banner pole. I reasoned that one could buy an umbrella style sunshade, remove the cloth to use as a pattern and make a new one out of whatever lightweight, beautiful fabric you desire. I got online and immediately found several websites selling batik bedspread covers in suitably gaudy patterns for very cheap prices. Given access to either a sewing machine or someone competent with one and open to bartering services, you could have many different covers in as many evenings. Edging the umbrella in a 6-8” lip of decorative fabric increases the shade for those sitting underneath and is entirely period.

What you have in the end is a lightweight set-up that can be bundled together for transport in the vehicle, onto the field and around the field by one person, in seconds! If you have an artistic friend and are willing to spring for fabric paint and material the possibilities are truly endless! Because of its ease of handling it can be used by most gentles for whatever purpose needed and stores in a very small space when not in use. Why bake next summer?

Book Review

• “The Formation of the Russian Women’s Costume at the Time before the Reforms of Peter the Great” in Catherine Richardson, ed. Clothing Culture, 1350 – 1650 (Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2004), pp 77-91.

Although just a chapter in a wider and more generalized book, it is a veritable treasure-trove for the costumer interested in medieval Russian women’s clothing and head wear. While the information itself is not new for anyone fortunate enough to speak Russian, for those who don’t it is an extremely friendly text.

It does not assume any previous knowledge of Russian costume history, nor of the Russian language. When Russian is used, in order to name garments or other objects, clear footnotes provide a translation and additional information. The footnotes also mention additional sources that could be referred to for additional information, however the majority are not published in English.

Clear line diagrams give an idea of the general shape of garments, and the variety of styles available just by adding or removing different layers of clothing. There are also line diagrams of the various styles of head wear.

The SCA-specific issue of when the popular kokoshnik head wear was worn, there is no specific dating other than ‘medieval’ instead focusing on the traditions behind the wearing of different styles of head covering for married and unmarried women.

As someone who does not know much about Russian clothing, I admit that this book was discovered entirely by accident, and judging from the title I did not expect any Russian costuming to be discussed. The price of the book (at almost $100 USD) is extremely steep, but if you can find it in your library it is well worth looking at.

– Ásfríðr Úlfvíðardóttir

Standard Disclaimer Stuff: Most of us are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA) but our Interest Group and its newsletter are not officially affiliated with the SCA. Naturally, then, Slovo does not bear any intentional resemblance to anything that the SCA officially endorses.

The original authors retain the rights to their works. Please contact them directly for permission to reprint. Uncredited material is the property of the publisher.

The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 5625 Highland Way, Middleton WI 53562, 608-827-6891, e-mail: There is no subscription fee and copies of this quarterly newsletter are available free of charge from the editor. Slovo is also available on-line at the Interest Group web site (