Friday, 4 November 2011

NaNoBlogMo 4 - My Gleeman's Cloak

I thought I would take a little break from writing about knitting projects and tell you all about a sewing project of mine. Like I mentioned in my post about the quilt I made for some friends of mine, I only recently learned how to use a sewing machine. As in a few months ago just learned how to use a sewing machine. I never really let that slow me down, though, and for years I sewed small projects and did repairs. When I earned patches as a girl scout, I sewed them on a sweatshirt. When my mother and I made me medieval dresses, I sewed on the buttons and made matching belt pouches with the scraps. But I think the project I am about to tell you about is the most hand sewing I ever did on one project.

I also mentioned in that quilt post that I was a member (and for two years a cho-chair) of my college's medieval re-enactment group. For our winter dinner and spring festival every year we had a central plot as well as plays for entertainment. I always seemed to be cast as the characters that were rather....let's say esoteric. In my four years I played Grendel, a dragon, a pirate whore named Pillow Fuckall, a deranged bishop, a crazy old Irish queen (seen here at the left), a cross-dressing fletcher named Joseph(ine), and in my final event... a drunken depressed jester that everyone called "Bobo".

Bobo was a favorite character of mine. For one thing, it gave me an excuse to learn how to juggle. I also got to stumble around, slurring and drinking out of a flask all day. I can't remember at what point I decided to make myself a cloak for my character, but once it was in my mind, I knew exactly what I wanted.

Let me back up and say that I was (and to only a slightly lesser extent I still am) a huge Wheel of Time fan. I cried the day I found out that the author, Robert Jordan, died. I actually picked my freshmen college roommate, Meredith, almost entirely because we were both fans of the series. I am currently trying to reread the entire series (I'm on book 5 now) since the last few are going to be coming out soon. After all these years of reading the books, I figure I might as well finish them, but since I haven't read most of them since high school, I need a refresher.

In the books there is a character called Thom Merrilin. He is described as a gleeman (basically a poet/bard/story-teller/juggler/acrobat/all-around-entertainer) and his signature clothing item is his cloak. It is often described in the book and always the same way: that it looks like it is made entirely out of patches, and that those patches flutter whenever the wind blows or he flourishes his cloak. What a great image. When I decided to be a jester, I knew I wanted to try and make a cloak like Thom's.

I found a large piece of purple fabric that was roughly cape-shaped in our attic to use as a base. Then I raided the costuming room and found a large supply of cloth samples, each about a foot square, which I knew would be perfect for me. I donated some larger cloth pieces in exchange for the samples, then cut each sample into six equal pieces until I had quite the pile of patches.

Once again I must bemoan my lack of blog or notes from earlier because I can't even really remember how I started. I believe I started from the bottom up, slightly overlapping each layer as I went, but I can't be sure. I do remember sewing with the longest thread I could comfortably manage on my needle, sewing patch after patch in a straight line until I ran out of thread, only to start again with a new piece. I also remember sewing the majority of it while I was alone at my parent's cabin during spring break before the festival (with breaks to practice my juggling of course). I made sure to only sew the top of each patch to the cloak, keeping with my dream of making it like Thom's, so that the patches would move and flutter.

Once the patches were all on and I had sewed a checkered shoelace around the neck to tie it on, I decided to take it a bit further. I sewed a few random buttons on, just to add another dimension, as well as a few jingle bells. With my cloak, jester hat and a braided ribbon with bells on my ankle, I was a rather noisy jester.

All-in-all, I was happy with how it came out. It looks a bit ramshackle, but being a cloak made of patches, owned by a drunken, depressed jester, how else should it look? I had a fun time whipping my cloak around the day of the festival, listening to it jingle and watching the patches wave about. At left you can see that the hat I wore as a bishop the year before also made an appearance. (I actually made the hat as well. I just used cardstock to make the shape, then covered it with white fabric and wide black ribbon, held down with tape. Viola!). I need more opportunities to dress like a fool, clearly I do it so well.

Sadly, I haven't worn this cloak since the festival. I have a few other cloaks that are less ostentatious that I usually wear for faires or even out on a normal day. But I'm happy knowing I have it, and I am ready should a day come when I need to be a jester or a gleeman once again.


  1. Fantastic! I'm so glad to see someone made Thoms cloak! It looks great :-)

  2. I Googled "gleeman's cloak" and here you are. Have you ever gone to Jordon.con? It is in Atlanta in April, I believe.

    1. Nope. I have never been to a WoT event. I'm curious, though!