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The Moy Gown




Figure 1: gown based on Moy gown, front

 
Background
 
This garment, presumed to be a woman’s, was discovered in a bog in Moy, County Clare, Ireland in 1931. The age of the gown is not known, but it is presumed to be from the mid 14th century to late 15th century based on its construction.
 
There are at least two very detailed accounts of this garment available. One authored by Kass McGann, who saw the gown in person and was allowed to make measurements, and one by Marc Carlson, who was in close contact with McGann. Both Mcgann and Carlson have made reproductions of the Moy bog gown.

The diagram in Figure 2 was made by Carlson, based on the actual tracing of the garment by Margaret Lannin of the National Museum of Ireland and allows for a detailed view of the remaining fragments. The most prominent characteristic of its construction is undoubtedly the trapezoidal shoulder blade gussets at the back of the bodice, which help to form a very large arm scye, which is labelled by some as “aux grande assiettes”. Newton discusses the grand assiette design Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince and gives examples of its usage post-1350 (eg., the poupoint of Charles de Blois, d. 1364). Geijer also discusses the grande assiette type design in her book, The Golden Gown of Queen Margareta in Uppsala Cathedral (trans.). This gown with grande assiette sleeves was purportedly worn by Margareta on her wedding day in 1363 when she was 10 years old. 
 
Figure 2: Moy Gown fragments. Drawings by Marc Carlson based on a tracing of the garment made by Margaret Lannin of the National Museum of Ireland.
 
Carlson quotes this paragraph from Dunlevy in his documentation:

"A coarsely woven twill of lightly spun wool, and may have had some slight felting on the inner surface. It has a low round neckline, with the bodice buttoned at centre front and tight sleeves buttoned to underarms. The skirt is shaped with a double gore at centre back and at either side. The front of the skirt did not survive. This Moy gown is of interest since it shows the sewing techniques of the time. Selvedges were used when possible, otherwise the fabric edge was thickened to avoid ravelling. All seams were welted but the neckline was finished neatly with backstitch on the inner face and the bodice fronts were hemmed. The seams of the skirts were sometimes left unfinished towards the bottom, the lower edge of which is so fragmentary that it would be unwise to conjecture as to whether it was ankle or calf-length. The difficulties surmounted in accommodating the sleeves are of interest. The fabric was wrapped around the arm and cut to extend close to the neck. A welted seam attached this to the body of the gown and continued into the sleeve. In this way the weakness of a shoulder seam was avoided. For further strength the two foreparts of the bodice were cut with narrow straps which extended over the shoulders and into triangular gussets between the shoulder blades. A gusset was placed at the front of each armpit for ease of movement and comfort."
Carlson writes:

“Contrary to what Dunlevy claimed, there were no welts in the seams. The seams are simple running stitches. The inside of the dress does appear "fulled", but it seems clear that this was because of wear and not fabric processing (it was more "fulled" in the folds where fabric rubbed against fabric and not "fulled" in other areas).”





Figure 3: aux grande assiettes
 
 Other points of construction include triangular gussets in the front of the sleeve to aid fit, and triangular gussets under the arm to shape the bodice. The gown has long triangular gores set at the waist in the front, at the sides and in the back to fit the hips and create sweeping fullness to the finished length. Additionally, the gown has cloth button closures down the centre front (although how far down the gown they originally extended is not known as those pieces are missing) and on the back opening of the sleeve. Marc Carlson writes “these buttons appear to be made from wads of cloth that is then covered in cloth, in a fashion consistent with other archaeological examples.” However, McGann states that no one had taken a button apart to examine its construction.  The buttonholes are set very close to the edge of the garment with the buttons attached directly to the opposing edge, which is consistent with other 14th-15th century examples. The sleeve pieces in existence do not extend past the mid-upper arm and although it is presumed that the gown had long sleeves, it is not known for certain.
 


Figure 4: triangular gores inserted under the arm, and at the front of the sleeve head



Figure 5: wrist to elbow button closures
The gown is constructed of 2/1 twill wool, with a thread count of 18 to 21 per inch along the horizontal and 20 per inch along the vertical.
 
 
Construction
 
The gown on display today is not a reconstruction. It is based upon the Moy gown, but the dimensions, materials, and construction methods have not been followed as an exact copy. Some of the differences are listed below.
 
  • My wool gown has been hand dyed with synthetic dye, not natural dye.
  • I varied the dimensions of the gown in order to fit my body, please see Table 1.
  • I sewed the gown by hand using synthetic button hole twist thread and a modern steel needle.
  • The cloth buttons I constructed are made from circles of cloth which are self-stuffed to create a firm button with no raw edges.
  • The button holes are bound in silk thread, not wool.
  • The buttonholes on my gown extend only from sleeve hem to elbow, not to the top of the arm.
  • My gown has linen facings for the buttonholes and the button edges, whereas the edges of the Moy gown were just turned over and neatly hemmed. The cloth with which I constructed my gown is not as coarse and I felt that the buttonholes and button edges required further reinforcement.
  • The lower front portion of the extant gown did not survive, but I have added triangular gores in the front of my gown based on the symmetrical gores placement seen in other extant garment of the 14th and 15th centuries
  • I have finished the seams on my gown by pressing them open and tacking them down with a running stitch as indicated in the MoL Textiles and Clothing book for seam finishing in the 14th and 15th centuries.

 

 Figure 6: Pattern created based on that of the Moy gown
  
 
The gown was entirely hand-sewn, using running stitch (main seams), back stitch (reinforcing main seams and gussets), hem stitch (hems and facings), and buttonhole stitch. As noted above, I used a synthetic, and heavy-duty buttonhole twist thread for the main seams and seam finishing. At the time I did not have access to any linen, or silk thread. Later I did, however, manage to procure some silk thread which I used in the construction of my 46 buttonholes. I have to say that sewing with finely corded silk is much more finicky than with the sturdier buttonhole twist, as it is prone to twisting and kinking. In the future I will try coating the silk cord thread with beeswax.
 
Of the diagrams depicting this gown, there are none that I know of which show the sleeve shape and how to adjust it to fit to the shoulder blade gusset and arm scye. This was by far the most challenging aspect of constructing this gown. It required 4+ mock-up versions of the bodice portion. And even then, some tweaking of the seams was necessary. This is definitely a dress that needs to be personally tailored to an individual in order to achieve the fit that makes it a superior working garment. 
 
Of the sleeve construction, McGann writes:

The sleeves of the gown are very curious. Their construction is extremely simple, but almost demands that they be fitted on the body of the wearer. The sleeves are simple rectangles, each about 16" wide. The 16" edge is sewn to the straps described above, with the edge of the sleeve being sewn to the top of the shoulder gussets. The rectangular sleeve then wraps around the arm and attaches to the outside edge of the same shoulder gusset (the 6 ½" side) being turned 90 degrees in its journey. A 3 ½" by 4" by 4 ½" triangle is inserted in a slit in the front of the arm, around the area of the armpit. This gore helps the sleeve fit better. The result is a sleeve that hugs the shoulder but doesn't have the stress of a shoulder seam.”

In the construction of my gown you can see this 90 degree turn which McGann describes, above. It occurs where the back corner of the underarm gusset meets the bottom corner of the shoulder blade gusset.

In my opinion, the beauty of this gown lies in the wonderful arm movement it allows, while not causing stress on the arm scye seams. Of the gowns I have made in the past with fitted sleeves and small arm scyes, the weakest link in their construction was always at the back of the arm scye where the sleeve was set. Inevitably, it is this point which undergoes the most stress when the arms are extended in front. And, if anyone reading this document has ever performed light to moderate labour in a cotehardie-type gown, you know that the ability to extend your arms forward to cook, clean dishes, sweep floors, and perform a plethora of other normal household (and Event) tasks is vital. This is one reason why I believe that the Moy bog gown is a working-class construct. Another reason is the coarse wool cloth from which the gown was made. McGann describes the individual threads from the cloth as varying in thickness from 1 mm to 1.5mm.
 
I generally construct 14th and 15th century gowns which utilise the underarm to floor method of inserting side gores, and this was my first attempt at an out garment with side gores set from the waist to the floor. The triangular gores set into the sides, back and front of this gown do add the fullness that is desirable, yet, they also create a stress point at the gore insertion point which requires much reinforcement. In the extant gown there is a roughly 2” square piece of cloth which patches a hole at the top of the gores in the back of the gown. 



Figure 7: gown based on Moy gown, back
 
All in all, I am pleased with the gown I made based on the Moy bog garment. I am very proud of the fit I achieved with the shoulder blade gusset shaping the large arm scye and the fit of the sleeve. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely use the fine silk cord I purchased near the end of the project to sew the seams, and I’d love to hand-dye some wool fabric with a natural dyestuff.
 
 
Table 1: A comparison of dimensions between the Moy bog gown and my gown
 

Construction area
My gown
Extant Moy bog gown
 
Shoulder gusset (grand assiette)
Top: 5”
Bottom: 7”
Sleeve side: 3”
Centre back edge: 5”
Top: 8 ¼" to 8 3/8"
Bottom: 8 ¼" to 8 3/8"
Sleeve side: 6 ½"
Centre back edge: 8”
Shoulder strap
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: 1”
Strap length: 9”
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: ¾”
Strap length: 8”
Underarm gusset
Top: 4”
Front side: 5”
Back side: 4”
Top: 2”
Front side: 3 ½”
Back side: 4 7/8
Sleeve gusset
Top: 2 ¾”
Sides: 3 – 3 ½”
Top: 3 ½”
Sides: 4 – 4 ½”
Sleeve
Top: 17 ½”
Buttonhole side length: 28”
Button side length: 23”
Top: 16”
The length of the sleeve is not known
Buttonholes
Distance between: ¾”
Number and distribution: 13 from sleeve hem to elbow
Distance between: 1.1”
Number and distribution: unknown number from sleeve hem to shoulder blade gusset

 
 References

Carlson, I. Marc, A Reconstruction of a Garment from the Moy Bog, Co. Clare, Ireland
http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/moy3.html

Carlson, I. Marc, Some Clothing of the Middles Ages. Historical Clothing from Archaeological Finds,                                              
http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/bockhome.html

Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-c.1450. (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4) London: HMSO, 1992

Dunlevy, Mairead. Dress in Ireland.  London: Batsford, 1989 (as referenced and quoted by Carlson)

Geijer, Agnes m.fl., Drottning Margaretas gyllene kjortel i Uppsala Domkyrka, Stockholm 1994

McGann, Kass, What the Irish Wore. The Moy Gown – An Irish Medieval Gown
http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/irish/moy.html

Newton, Stella Mary, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince. A Study of the Years 1340-1364. 1999
 
 

Gown with full sleeves, 15th century


This gown was constructed of red wool flannel and lined with blue silk.  It is in the Italian/Southern European style late 15th century.  I generally wear the gown with a square front, supportive kirtle (see images and description below) and a stuffed roll headdress created from a linen roll, wrapped in burgundy silk and banded with velveteen and pearl strips. In the two images below I am wearing a long transparent silk veil under the roll.  The gown laces up the back, is closely fitted through the torso, and features full upper sleeves and tight fore sleeves.  The back seam in the fore sleeve is slit and very small puffs of my linen smock can been seen.

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The inspiration for this gown was drawn from several images in art work from the late 15th century, but mainly from a detail on the central panel of Memling's St. John Alterpiece.  I love the sleeves, and the dress has a modest scoop neckline and lovely full skirt.  In Memling's image there is no visible lacing and I have made an assumption that the lacing is in the back.

 

St John Altarpiece (central panel detail) by Hans Memling, 1474-79
Memlingmuseum, Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges

The two photos below show the back lacing and the only additional embellishment on the gown - a nine strand braid, made in three parts and sewn to the neckline and the lacing edges.

  

 Under the gown I am wearing a square front kirtle constructed of blue tabby-woven lightweight wool, with side lacing.  The bottom edge of the kirtle features a pleated border beaded with glass pearls and glass beads.  The embellishment on the hem is generally the only part of this garment that is ever on view.  There are numerous examples in 15th century artwork whereby a non-embellished outer gown is lifted ever so slighty and modestly to reveal an elaborate gown underneath.

   

 Details from the kirtle:  side lacing (both sides, fulled wool strips sewn into the lacing edges for stiffness and hand-sewn eyelets); and beading on the lower pleated edge.

 

The image below depicts a lady in waiting helping Bathsheba from her bath.  The lady is wearing a heavy, fur-lined gown over a kirtle with a square front and a deep, pleated border on the lower edge.  One cannot discern from the painting if the under gown has sleeves or not. 

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Bathsheba by Hans Memling, ca. 1485
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

I am wearing a late 15th century style linen coif with the kirtle.  It is contructed like a bonnet with a turned back front edge, and two tails which are brought up and around the head and then tied again in the back.  A similar coif is shown below in a detail from the MS Douce 195 Romance of the Rose Manuscript.  The coif is very simple to construct being made from one piece of linen cut on the fold with a clean selvage edge in front.  The two tails are attached about 5 cm out from the central back seam.


   Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting  Ms. Douce 195, f. 118
                                                                                                                                                                                 The Romance of the Rose
                                                                                                                                                                                 Bodleian Library, Oxford.


    

 

 


 

Smocked apron


Peppered throughout the Luttrell Psalter are very pretty and practical aprons.  They have a honeycomb smocked appearance and since smocking was a technique known and used in that time period, it is a reasonable assumption that this is indeed the manner in which these aprons were created.




      From the Luttrell Psalter, 1305-1340.




Since I have been long craving my own apron, I set out to make a smocked one using a medium-heavy weight linen.  I am wearing it below with an early 14th century gown, and linen headdress.


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The apron was constructed using a smocking technique starting with gathering stitches set 3/8" apart on a piece of linen approximately 26" wide.  I used 6 rows of gathering stitches to make the smocking pleats.  The picture below shows 7 rows, but I removed one as the honeycomb pattern I intended to create is based on an even number of rows.







The gathering threads are pulled tightly and then the threads knotted off.  I used heavy button-hole thread in a high-contrast colour so that I could easily see the threads while making my smocking stitches.







The photo below shows the smocking stitches all set into the pleats.  The honeycomb pattern was created by linking pairs of pleats together with two satin stitches, then using alternating pairs of pleats in the row below.  Using this method, two rows of gathering stitches are smocked at a time.








The finished smocking pattern is shown below.  The gathering stitches have been removed, and the pattern stretched out gently.  The linen has been effectively gathered into half its width making a band approximately 13" long.







Smocking detail:







 




 

Side-lacing kirtle


The pattern for this item is based on the Herjolfsnes gown # 39:
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Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 39, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003

The kirtle has two underarm-to-hem gores on both left and right sides, with additional triangular gores set into the front and back panels.   The cut of the gores ensures a bias to straight-of-grain construction to these seams, which lends an elegant drape to the garment and also keeps the seams from warping and lengthening, as would happen in a bias to bias construction.

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The kirtle is side-lacing. The lacing holes are hand-made and the edges of the fabric beside the holes has been reinforced with a row of tablet weaving. This was a normal method used to strengthen and stiffen the fabric. It is documented in the Museum of London’s book, Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450, Crowfoot, Pritchard, and Staniland. It is a very authentic alternative to modern plastic boning, and helps to alleviate puckering as the edges becomes quite stiff with the tablet-woven edge.  The tablet weaving in this instance was accomplished with three tablets and 12 strands of yarn. Due to the very fine nature of the yarn, the weaving required approximately 5 hours per edge for a total of twenty hours of work.

Side lacing
Visitation
Rogier van der Weyden
Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig

The neck hem and lacing edge hems are all faced with a narrow strip of tabby-woven silk. The facings are reinforced with three rows of running stitches.
 
The fabric used in the construction of this very comfortable and supportive kirtle is dark rust coloured wool, of medium weight.   The kirtle was tailored to be very form fitting, fitting with the styles of the 15th century.

 

Two images taken from June in Les Tres Riches Heures du Jean, Duc de Berry, created in 1416.  These working women are wearing short-sleeve kirtles.  The kirtle in the image on the right is central-front lacing, however the kirtle on the left is either central-back lacing or side-lacing.

 

 



Burgundian gown, mid-15th century


The gown is made from warm brown coloured wool in a heavy hand. The trim is also heavy weight wool. The gown closes in front with lacing rings, as were quite commonly used in the 15th century. The rings are hidden from view on the underside of the gown.

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This is a very simple garment. It adds an easy and loose layer of warmth and is always worn over a kirtle. In the King Rene manuscipt, Le Cueur d'Amours Espris, women are depicted removing their Burgundian-style gowns to reveal short sleeve kirtles which lace up the front. The kirtles have black inset pieces pinned to them, which gives the characteristic filled neckline seen in many portraits. This is how I typically wear the gown. The photo below shows the placket pinned to a short-sleeved kirtle which is worn under the gown. 

The gown is worn with a wide belt, cinched above the natural waist.  This high placement of the belt and fullness of the gown gives the illusion of roundness and fertility, so prized at the time. The images below show full frontal view, placket placement on the kirlte worn beneath the gown, side view, and the sleeve back.


Clockwise: full-length frontal view showing fit of gown through upper body, increasing in fullness to the floor; placket pinned on kirtle worn beneath gown; side view; and sleeve back showing triangular gusset.

King René, Le Cueur d'Amours Espris, placket pinned on bodice of kirtle.


The pattern for this gown is based on portraits from the era and cutting styles seen in the Herjolfnes dresses. I have added fullness to the gown by using underarm-to-hem side gores. The sleeves are tailored to the arms, but not as tight as may be found in the full-sleeve kirtles of the time – this dress was meant to be worn on top of a kirtle and the sleeves and arm scyes are more relaxed.

The hand-stitching that I used in the construction of  this gown consists of running stitch, hem stitch and back stitch. The seams are all finished by flattening out the seam allowances and then tacking them in place with rows of running stitch. This adds a stability to the vertical line of the seam. As both pieces are constructed of wool, the seam allowances full naturally when hand washed and there is little to no unraveling.

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The gown was inspired by the style of dress often depicted in early-mid 15th century art work.  The female donor figure from Memling's Last Judgement tripych, below, wears a gown of similar cut (note the interesting sleeve attachment).  Her gown has a thin white border which might be fur or textile, and the long sleeves are fitted to the wrist and then flare and extend to cover her hands to the first knuckle.

      Hans Memling, Last Judgment Triptych (left wing),1467-71

Loose gown, early 14th Century


This dress is of the style observed in the first quarter of the 14th century in northern Europe.  It is constructed of unlined, fine, tabby-woven wool.  In the photos below I am wearing the gown with a fine linen wimple and veil and a smocked linen apron.  The dress is fitted through the shoulders only, and hangs in long elegant folds. It has a deep slit in the front neckline for nursing.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photo by Ron Gebhardt, August, 2006

The dress was inspired by two pieces of clothing found at the Herjolfsnes archaeological site in Greenland.  The two gowns, shown below in pattern drawings based on Nörlund, are both thought to have belonged to men, however, the construction of clothing in this time period were very similar for both genders. My gown has six gores, two under each arm and extending to the ground, one in the centre front set high in front at the start of the opening slit, and one in the centre back set at the waist. The dress was designed to be very loose as I made it when I was pregnant. 


Herjolfsnes number 43                                                                             Herjolfsnes number 42

Some Clothing of the Middle Ages
-- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 42 and Herjolfsnes 43, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003

The sleeves of the gown are semi-fitted and feature a triagular gore in the back of each sleeve head (see Herjolfsnes number 42, above).  They are tapered through the wrist and forearm, but not so tight that they need buttons or lacing.  This is an everyday, working garment.

 

The neckline of the dress is faced with a narrow strip of tabby woven silk, as is the deep front opening.  The opening also has a tablet woven border in light blue wool, made with two tablets and eight strands of yarn.

The dress is a simple design, made for everyday life. Belted with a smocked apron, below, it blouses nicely and is reminiscent of those seen in the early 14th century depiction.

  Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting  From the Manesse Codex, 1305-1340.

Here are some additional photos of the dress in action!

Short-sleeve kirtle with wide front lacing


This costume is a short-sleeve kirtle, circa late-15th Century.  It is constructed from unlined medium weight olive wool and features a wide front opening with rust-coloured wool placket.  The spiral lacing across the placket is definitely the attention-grabbing feature of this simple dress.  I am wearing the kirtle with a fine linen smock, a simple linen headdress and a beautiful belt from Fettered Cock Pewters.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting  Memling, Lamentation, 1475. Detail of belt.

The wide front opening was inspired by many depiction in late 15th century art, including the two below by Memling. In the first image, the gown is worn over a very beautiful brocade dress and the front opening is filled with a black placket.  The second image also shows the front opening filled with black fabric, but we cannot be certain whether this fabric belows to a placket or an undergown.



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Triptych of Adriaan Reins (central panel), 1480, Memling.
Allegory of True Love, 1485, Memling.

The cut of the costume is similar to that of Herjolfsnes 39, show below after conservation and in pattern layout. It is constructed on a six-gore system, with two gores at each side and one at front- and back-centre.  The bodice in my kirtle is very form-fitted, and I added the wide opening in the front.

  

Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 39, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003

   Detail of side gores


The front lacing edges of the kirtle are reinforced with a tablet woven band of brown wool, made with two tablets and eight strands of yarn.  The tablet weaving offers an enhanced stability to the bodice and lessens puckering. 



The front edges and neckline are faced with fine tabby-woven silk.

The there is triangular gore (see Herjolfsnes pattern, above) in the sleeve back which aids in flexibility and stretch of the sleeve.

All in all, this is a very comfortable dress.


Heraldic tabard


The tabard is constructed of burgundy fine wool twill lined with brown velveteen.  It has hanging sleeve, open at the top, and the sides are completely split up to the underarm. It is bordered in blue heavy, fulled wool, and beaded with pearls and coloured beads.  At the bottom of the tabard, in the front and back there is a deep border of heavy blue wool appliqued with fettered fleurs.  The fleurs are of white fulled wool, and the crowns are beaded mainly with with glass and jade.


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Matilda la Zouche in heraldic tabard. Photo by Marie Chantal Cadieux, November 2004.

I created the tabard for my apprenticing ceremony to Dame Eleanor Cadfan, of the Fettered Fleur household. The inspiration for the tabard was taken from, The Virgin [Madonna] of the Catholic Kings (Madrid, Museo del Prado), circa 1490, showing the Spanish royal family as depicted in Hispanic Costume 1480-1530, by Ruth Matilda Anderson.


I am wearing the tabard with a red wool gown with Italian sleeves, lined in blue silk.  My headdress is of the stuffed roll variety.  It is a linen form, wrapped in burgundy silk, and bound with pearled velveteen bands.  Under the stuffed roll I am wearing a transparent silk veil, and hair plaited with pearls.


 

Matilda and Marie Chantal. Picture by Marie Chantal Cadieux, November 2004.


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Fleur detail. Photo by Jennifer Poulin, 2004.

Matilda during apprenticing ceremony. Photo by Eirik Anderson, November 2004.