I decided I was going to surprise Master William the Alchemyst with the idea of becoming his first apprentice. I wanted to make certain that my belt would not only be hand crafted, but also adapted to show both of our personas. It was important to me that people could look at my belt as see who I was, but also who I belonged to in the academic sense. Master William, having a laurel in period mathematics, made me think of Leonardo of Pisa – better known as Fibonacci. Myself having a Russian persona, I decided to work with a lot of the Slavic folklore.
Fibonacci was born in Pisa around 1170 and had a big part in the development of algebra. In Fibonacci's book, Liber Abaci, written in 1202, Fibonacci took a great deal of time helping to spread the Hindu Arabic number system through algebra, geometry, and practical applications. In specific, chapters 8-12 deal with word problems that would naturally arise from business situations. This includes the famous “rabbit problem” that most people recognize better as the Fibonacci sequence. Since the Fibonacci sequence is well know, it seemed an appropriate design idea for my belt.
In Slavic folklore, red was a prominent color. It was placed at the openings of many tunics creating the trim for sleeves and hems because it was seen to keep the evil spirits away from one's body. Bells, whips, whistles, and many other forms of making noise were also important in the Slavic culture in order to announce yourself and, again, keep the spirits far from your paths of travel so that you may travel in safety. Although I have a much later period persona where the Russian's were known to be devoutly Christian, many of these traditions were unable to be released by the people. When it came to belts, both men and women would wear belts of cloth that were highly ornamented or decorated if they were wearing them on the outside of their clothing.
Taking all this into consideration, I began to design my apprentice belt. Since I am a fiber person, I decided I would spin and weave the belt myself. Girl's were taught how to spin wool in Russia from a very young age as they found it to be a very important skill to have. Weaving, on the other hand, was not something everyone was able to do as the houses were small and not all of them would be equipped to handle a loom. Since there is evidence of women in Russia spinning, both written and depicted (even on coins), there is a possibility that they delivered their hand spun to somewhere, such as a monostary, who would then weave the yarn into fabric at a price. This was something seen in medieval Russia in other mediums, such as women with ovens too small would make their bread dough and deliver it to the local bread baker who would bake it for them at a price. Since I do have the room for a loom, though, I spun and wove the belt myself.
Deciding on colors as well as how to work in the Fibonacci sequence and, as well, what type of weaving pattern to use was fairly easy. The weft would be red to symbolize the need for protection in Russia. The weave would be done in Fibonacci sequence stripes that would alter between green, for the apprentice belt, to a golden color that symbolized the fact that Fibonacci had a large impact with his algebra systems in the business world. The pattern would be a simple 2/2 twill, a pattern that was found not only in many typical woven medieval patterns, but it was definitely found in linen and wool cloth finds in Russia.
Using a small table sized four harness loom, I used my hand spun wool that measured at 16WPI. Although I did not card and dye the colors myself, I did make certain the colors I used to be reached in a period style of dye. The belt was a majority of green with golden stripes and the red weft created a red fringe at the ends of the belt that I then decorated with glass beads, which were typical in peasant and city folk decoration, and little bells in hopes of keeping the evil spirits off the track of my journey I was to be taking with my laurel.
Needless to say, I presented my belt to my laurel without a word – it made him chuckle and he accepted me as his apprentice.
For those who don't know Master William, he is a very shy man. Although he wanted me as his apprentice, he never would have managed to find the courage to ask me quite so quickly – so I asked him. He actually sat beside me at War of the Roses mentioning we needed to have a meeting as to whether we would like to stay in the student – teacher relationship, go further, or perhaps drop everything for now due to life being busy. All the while that he was saying this to me, I was sitting on the ground weaving this belt and his son was helping me by pushing down the levers. Master William is a wonderful man and it is for reasons like this that he is adored.
A huge thank you to Siobhan and Mistress Brid for their support, knowledge, and help with this project.
Kononenko, Natalie. Slavic Folklore: A Handbook. Greenwood Press: London. 2007.
Pisa, Leonardo of. Liber Abaci. 1202.
Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston. The Domostroi: Rules For Russian Households in the Times Of Ivan the Terrible. Cornell University Press: London. 1994.
Pushkareva, Natalia. Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century. M. E. Sharpe: Armanok, NY. 1997.
Sepanov, Julia. History of the Russian Traditional Suit. http://archcostume.narod.ru/index.htm (February-April 2011).