Giving the perfect gift is always a tricky business. Now and in medieval times, giving a gift which says too little or too much might be fraught with peril.
Helpfully, medieval author Andreas Capellanus included a list of things might give to the medieval women without creating issues, although, he warns, these must be done in the correct spirit.
Looking down his list, it seems a little more complicated than first meets the eye. A circlet of silver or gold is an extremely expensive present. A mirror seems an extremely personal one. A ring? Really? A comb might seem a bit of a lack-lustre idea compared to other items on his list, but a hand-carved ivory comb with carved figures or a boxwood comb with sliding compartments for cosmetics is not a tiny gift at all.
Today as frantic men and ladies hit the shops in order to find that perfect gift, uncertainly still affects our choices. Flowers? Daisies or roses? What colour roses? The nuances of the flower colour code still lives today and can cause untold awkwardness if the incorrect colour is selected.
I've finally finished it!! Woo hoo! What a lot of nerve-wracking work it was too. Each step of the way had the potential to ruin or scratch or break a different part of it. I'm super pleased with the end result, and I'll be putting up some photos of how it all went together since some people are asking.
I've had the Baden Baden belt set from Gothic Cast Accessories for quite some time now, and I've been really anxious about how to attach the buckle and chape. They've come with a recess and some posts, so if I was using a leather belt, I'd simply make holes to match and fold the posts over.
The belt was hand-woven and hand-dyed by Mervi Pasanen from Swan River Crafts and I was extremely worried that just bending the posts over with a tablet woven belt would result in the belt not being secure enough or tearing or the mounts falling off, so I really needed to have a think about this.
After much thought, I felt I needed to get medieval and have a plate at the back.
Step 1 was finding a helpful friend, in this case, Nigel from living history group Husaria Australia, who was able to carefully cut a thin sheet of brass into two little pieces which would fit into the backs of the buckle and chape. I used a drill to make holes to line up with the posts.
Testing the holes lined up.. and they did!
So this left a substantial amount of room for the belt end to fit in and be sandwiched securely before hammering the posts down.
I used a super fluffy towel to lay the buckle on, so the enameling wouldn't be damaged and placed the end of the belt into the recess. I also used some glue to really secure the belt for when I snipped the ends off. On existing 14th century buckle plates, I have found what looks like glue on textile belt fragments which have come from buckles, so I feel that this might be historically accurate. I've not seen any glue on leather belt fragments, but that is just from my own collection, so I have a limited number of pieces to study.
The buckle plate for the back still needed to be held really firmly while the posts were folded over. Next step, hammering the posts over.
If I had have been able to make a back plate which had really small holes, I might have simply peened the posts which would have been historically accurate or added a rove and peened, but I am so worried that the belt buckle needs to be secure, I hammered the posts out. The posts are made with one side flat and the other side rounded, so if they are hammered with the rounded side out, there won't be an issue with the posts catching on clothing. I intend to wear this with a silk gown, and I'm pretty confident it won't damage the gown. I could sand or file the posts if I was worried, but I think they will be fine.
As you will notice, the silk belt is a touch wider than the buckle itself, but this is a deliberate decision. I believe that with wear, the belt with stretch out a tiny bit, especially with the weight of the mounts and this will pull the belt ever so slightly. It will then be exactly the width of the buckle.
I repeated the process for the belt chape and now all that remains it to add the belt mounts! And that's a post for another time!