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Ovr-Doc-Pobia-art - 2/17/09


"Overcoming Documentation Phobia" by Mistress Laurellen de Brandevin OL


NOTE: See also the files: Documentation-art, Doc-n-Obitury-art, 5x8-Doc-art, AS-cont-docu-msg, cookg-compet-msg, Judging-AS-art, Narfing-Iron-art, Whimsy-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



You can find more articles by this author on her website at: http://www.renaissancetailor.com/


Also, visit her Renaissance Tailor Store at: http://www.renaissancetailor.com/store/


Overcoming Documentation Phobia

by Mistress Laurellen de Brandevin, OL


What is Docuphobia?

A persistent and sometimes debilitating fear of writing documentation on a project.


What causes Docuphobia?

Several factors determine both the existence and extent of Docuphobia. First and foremost, the individual considers him- or herself incapable of writing documentation or may feel insecure about the clarity of their writing. Often, in the latter case, these individuals will have stacks of books with them during presentations, as a substitute for writing documentation.


Help! Can Docuphobia ever be cured?

Yes! Docuphobia can be cured. Read on, intrepid costumer, and enter the dark, dank world of Writing Documentation... grab a torch and a pitchfork, you'll need them.


Documentation in a Nutshell.

Do you suffer from Docuphobia? Almost everyone who has ever had to lay pen to paper to document an item has suffered from it so you are not alone. Even I, who can yap on for hours about any given subject, have suffered from it. But there are a few tricks and tools to both conquering that fear and writing the documentation itself that I will show you. First, let's examine the idea of Documentation and what its purpose is.


What is Documentation and What is Its Purpose?

Documentation is really nothing more than your theory about your item, written out on paper. Just as your item is the tangible, physical manifestation of your theory, your documentation is your written theory, explaining things your item may not be able to explain. Everyone does documentation in their head. When you look at an item in a book, or see an item in a museum, or even get an idea for an item from someone else's item, you have already done preliminary documentation. Nobody creates in a vacuum. Documentation is there specifically for judges of a competition to read so that they get a good idea of what you have created. That is essential for a judge to do their job.


As an example, if you were to create a flat cap (bonnet!), you obviously got your ideas for it from somewhere. Where did you get them? It's ok to say, "Master Mickleburg wears a spiffy flat cap (bonnet!), and I like how it looks". There it is. Your preliminary documentation. Not so hard, was it? Master Mickleburg wears one. It's spiffy. You like it. You want to make one. And you want to enter it into a competition to be judged.


But you need to take your preliminary idea a bit further. Master Mickleburg may wear a flat cap (bonnet!), and it may indeed look spiffy on him, giving him a rakish air that you admire. But where did he get the idea for it? Ask him! Or, if you're shy, get someone else to ask him. If this route is not open to you, hit the books and try to find examples of what Master Mickleburg is wearing.


The absolute best books to look in are books with loads and loads of portraits. If you can, try to find one with a good cross section of portraits from a vast array of eras. This does mean going to a library or knocking on the door of your local costuming Laurel's house (and every area has one whose own personal library rivals the Library of Congress).


If you can't possibly get to a library or you can't bring yourself to go to that Laurel's house, then hit the Internet. But be careful. Not all sources of information are created equal. Make sure that you use websites that have their own sources cited, either on the page you are reading or in a bibliography somewhere. It doesn't guarantee that your website source is a good one, just gives it a better chance of it being a good one.


At this juncture, I want you to notice the flow of directions. First, you get an idea. Second, you track down books that may support that idea. Third, if you can't get to books, then try the Internet. But the Internet should be your last resort.


At the end of all of this effort, you should have a book or two, maybe a few Internet sites, and perhaps you've overcome your fear of Master Mickleburg or that Bibliophilic Laurel and have gotten some information from them (and more books from the Laurel). You now have the preliminary foundation for your documentation. Many of you do this already without thinking about it. But, when you enter a competition, you must take it a step further, and write this all down.


Here's where many people break out in a cold sweat. I've heard it before, many times. "But I can't write", you say.


How to Write Documentation Even if You Think You Can't Write

So many people shy away from writing their documentation process down because they have the embedded idea that they cannot write. It's true that there is a style of writing necessary for good documentation. The documentation must be clear, concise and brief. But these are easy to accomplish if you follow these steps: What, Where, When, Why, How.



What is this item that you are entering in the competition? It's a flat cap (bonnet!). Write that down. Flat Cap.


Where and When

Where does it come from, this item? It's a common piece of headgear from the mid to late 16th century – which you know from wandering through those books and those internet sites. You've seen flat caps (bonnets!) from all over Europe, starting during the time of Henry VIII (or a little earlier) and running through the reign of Elizabeth I. So you can say, based on your books, your Internet sources, and Master Mickleburg that this flat cap (bonnet!) of yours a common item from all over Europe, and occurs regularly between 1535 and 1600.



Why was a flat cap (bonnet!) worn? Take a look in the portraits and your internet sources again. Do only Royalty wear them? Do only servants wear them? Or does it seem like anybody, male or female, wears them? Are they only worn outdoors or indoors? Are they plain or fancy? Do they appear to do anything? By answering these questions, one by one, you can further flesh out your 'why' section. As an example, one can say that almost everyone across the social strata wears a flat cap (bonnet!). They are both plain and fancy and are worn both indoors and out. Mostly, they appear to be decorative, except in the lower classes, where they appear to function to keep the sun off the head.



Now here is where it gets slightly easier. How did you make your flat cap (bonnet!)? Literally go through every step in your construction process. First, you selected your fabric and determined whether or not you were going to line it. Then you cut it out and sewed it together. How did you sew it together? Did you start by cartridge pleating the crown (like that Laurel told you to do and showed you how to do)? Did you then finish off the brim and attach the crown? What about that great little piece of cording that you put on the hat to decorate it? Did you see something similar to it in your book sources or online?


Hey! Look! You're done with your documentation! Let's review by putting all of what we wrote above together.


Title (What):

Flat Cap (Bonnet!)


First paragraph (Where and When):


A common piece of headgear from the mid to late 16th century. Flat caps (bonnets!) occur all over Europe, starting during the time of Henry VIII (or a little earlier) and running through the reign of Elizabeth I.


Second paragraph (Why):


Almost everyone across the social strata wears a flat cap (bonnet!). They are both plain and fancy and are worn both indoors and out. Being a common item, it is entirely appropriate for my persona. Mostly, flat caps (bonnets!) appear to be decorative, except in the lower classes, where they appear to function to keep the sun off the head.


Third paragraph (How):


First, fabric was selected based on examples seen in portraits. I started by cutting out the crown and brim and lining both. Then I cartridge pleated the crown (per Mistress Bibliophile). I finished off the brim and attached the crown (again per Mistress Bibliophile). The cording was a common decorative item, based on the portraits I have seen.


Holy Cow! One hundred and fifty-six words and your basic documentation is finished. You only have one last item to do; your bibliography. And that is truly the easiest part.


The Bibliography

Literally speaking, the bibliography is a list of every source you used when thinking about and making up your item. List all the books you looked at, all the Internet sites you looked at and the people you chatted with. Some Kingdoms are more lenient about this inclusion into a bibliography than others. If yours is a Kingdom that frowns upon it, then list the people you chatted with in a separate section below your bibliography under the title "Other Sources".


A book should be cited, per the Chicago Manual, with the name of the author (last name first), the year of publication, the title, where the book was published and the publisher:

Arnold, Janet. 1973. A Handbook of Costume
New York: S.G.Phillips


Websites should be cited, per the Manual,

Dupuis, Tammie L. 2005. The Renaissance Tailor [online]. 

[cited January 21st, 2005]. Available from the World Wide Web:


For more information on the Chicago Manual of Style, go to http://library.osu.edu/sites/guides/chicagogd.html.


That is it, my intrepid costumers. That is all there is to basic documentation. Obviously, there can be more – much, much more if you're wordy or if the item you're documenting is complicated. But, by and large, this format will serve you well. Eventually, you'll begin to flesh it out further as you continue to enter competitions. Pay attention to the judges comments about your documentation; these are most helpful in spotting questions you did not answer and will help you to answer them in your next documentation.


If you'd like to see the above example completely formatted and written out, here it is:



Happy Documenting!


Copyright 2000 by Tammie L Dupuis, 470 Bridle View Pl NW, Bremerton, WA 98311. <TheTailor at renaissancetailor.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org