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Scribal Extravaganza

September 22, 2016

Well, it’s been a while and this has been nagging at me for quite some time.  So, since I don’t feel like working on actual work for a change, here’s a post!

While there haven’t been many local courts this summer, I have managed to do a fair amount of scribal work.  Baroness Hannah, a friend of mine in Cynnabar, has been working on a scribal challenge – getting the scribes of the group to make as many scroll blanks as possible to donate to the kingdom.  To encourage this, she’s hosted several workdays at her house where scribes can get together to work and share ideas and comradeship.

I was able to attend one of the workdays back in July and had a fun time (how could I not?) hanging out with friends and fellow scribes.

blank-1-2016I completed one blank with a large capital L and some whitework of the style done in the 14th century.  I also shared one of my scribal “cheats” – a page I’d made with a bunch of whitework patterns collected from a variety of manuscript sources.  Having them all in one place makes it easy to pick patterns to put on a scroll, rather than having to take the time to leaf through a book to find different designs.

Even though the whitework is not as neat as I might like, the overall effect is nice and the bright colors always stand out.

blank-2-2016I also started a second blank in a style that would be appropriate for and early medieval persona with a border design based on some Celtic carving.  Though I got the border finished, I thought the rest of the scroll looked a little plain, so I brought it home with me to add a large capital to start things off.

I kind of like the simplicity of this one, with just green and gold colors.  The gold here (and on all of these scrolls) is done with Holbein “pearl gold” gouache, which makes a decent substitute for shell gold (finely ground gold in a pellet that can be used like paint) but is relatively quick and easy to use.  I always put an undercoat of yellow or yellow ochre paint down before applying the gold gouache.  This helps give better coverage since I don’t have to apply as much of the gold paint to get a good look.

With that, we were off to Pennsic for two weeks and then there were only two weeks afterward for me to get ready to start the fall semester, so things kind of hit a lag for a while.  However, at a local event last weekend, there was a “Five Hour Challenge” competition.  Entrants were given five hours to work on a project of their choosing and at the end of the time judging was done on the scope of the project, success of completion, and quality of work.  I decided that bringing my scribal supplies along would give me something to do throughout the day and I could see how many blanks I could do in that time.  The answer is three!

blank-4-2016First I made another scroll inspired by Celtic illuminated manuscript work, using a large illuminated letter and completing the top line with enlarged text surrounded by rubrication (tiny red dots) that are typical of this style.

As is often the case, I’m not really satisfied with the way the rubrication turned out.  I always have a hard time getting the dots evenly spaced and regular in size and shape.

Still, I happened on a blog entry from the British Library the other day on this exact topic that has some really great closeup images of a page from the 7th century Lindisfarne Gospel.  I was amazed to see that the historic dots aren’t even either!

So I feel a little better about my dots now, but I think I still need to work on getting them a little more consistent.

blank-3-2016Then, I made a scroll with an initial done in the style of Ottonian manuscripts from about the 10th century.  The Ottonian style is kind of a combination of some leftover Celtic interlace bits and a more vegetal, less geometric style.  What’s also interesting about these letters is their typically red details and outline, which stands out from the more standard black or dark brown used in most other forms.

The gold here should really be gold leaf rather than paint.  You can see the shine of real gold on the historic manuscripts, but for this purpose and given the short amount of time I had to work, the gold paint fit the bill.

This is the scroll I’m most happy with of the three I made.  I was able to use a fine liner brush to fill in the red details and especially the overall outline of the letter and I think really achieved the look of the original forms.  I may add a small border to the opposite corner of this scroll, but it’s on a smaller piece of paper (about 6×9″) so I don’t want to limit the space for calligraphy too much.

blank-5-2016Finally, I made a blank in the style known as Italian white vine, which was popular in Italy in the 15th century.  This style is always fun and is actually relatively simple – there’s no shading or complicated patterning, just large block areas of color.

What’s fun about this style is again the dots – white dots on the blue and red areas and gold dots on the green areas.  Here again the gold of the letter should be done in gold leaf, but for practical purposes the gold paint works well.

I also used another scribal cheat on this one and used Micron pens in black and brown for the outlines.  These fine point pens are a quick and easy way to outline when you don’t want to mess with a tiny nib.

So now I’m all stocked up and ready for some future courts!

Meanwhile, I did do one complete scroll for an event in the region.  While I had kind of hoped for something I could apply to one of my existing blanks, I ended up with an assignment for a Japanese persona.  Still, I like doing these scrolls that are outside the standard European model.  It’s a nice opportunity to break out of the regular forms.

I had a strip of Pergamenata about 6×37″ left over from cutting down a large sheet.  It’s an odd size, but this kind of thing often works for a non-traditional scroll like this since I could do something in the style of a Japanese hand scroll.  After doing a little research on different forms in the recipient’s time period, I also discovered that her name translates to “maple” and so settled on a design of a maple branch extending along the length of the scroll with a block of text at one end.

waterhorse-cavendish-16Here, the scroll is still taped to my work table in the basement (hence the odd shadows).  The ink and paint I used for this were very liquid, and I didn’t want the Perg to buckle from the moisture.

The text is written from right to left and vertically, as with traditional Japanese calligraphy.  I used a faux hand with the English alphabet altered to emulate the look of Japanese calligraphy.  While the text blocks here are a bit larger than you might find on a traditional hand scroll, I’m happy with the way the blocks of text balance out that end of the scroll against the more sparse look but intense color of the branch and leaves across the rest of the space.

Unfortunately, the intended recipient wasn’t at the event, and I don’t know if it’s been delivered to her yet.  Still, I was really gratified at the gasp that came from the audience when it was displayed in court.  It’s always nice to get a reaction like that!


Armpits Ahoy!

June 20, 2016

And other fabric goodness.  So, yes, long time no post.  Busy person is busy and so on and so forth.

But, summer is here now and I have (a little) more free time, especially since a number of events we might normally go to have been put on hiatus due to the SCA 50 Year event going on this month.  We are not going because of work obligations, but the upside is this gives us about four free weekends to work on various projects that need doing.

Blue BowlSo this weekend, we both did a bunch of various project work.  The Hubs spent a considerable amount of time in the basement, working on pottery projects and did a glaze firing in the kiln on Sunday.  He was able to deliver a commission of a blue bowl to his chiropractor today, in exchange for a couple of free adjustments.

There was also an assortment of mugs and cups in Striped Mugsthis load, as well as some other commissioned bowls.  I like the way these striped ones turned out.

I spent most of Saturday upstairs in the sewing room, making some alterations to my various underdresses.  having become a person of a certain stage in life (ahem) and also having done a push-up challenge a while ago AND doing yoga a couple of times a week pretty consistently for the last 18 months means that my upper arms have become a little more substantial than they used to be.  This means that most of my more fitted underdresses had become a little snug in that area and required some adjustment.

Arm GussetsThe solution to this problem was to open the side seam from just below the bicep into the armpit area and insert a gusset of sorts.  It took me a couple of tries to get the shape and size of the added piece right, but after some repeated cutting, sewing, and ripping out again (and maybe some swearing and only a little blood, none of which got on the clothes) I found the right form.  It’s amazing how much the fabric of some of the dresses has faded!  The dark green one is the worst, but you don’t really notice it unless there’s some less-faded fabric to compare, and I doubt I’ll be spending a lot of time waving my arms around so the gusset won’t really be that noticeable.

I also made an adjustment to my dragon-appliqued Norse apron dress, which also needed a little expansion around the upper opening.  I added a small gore in the center back seam to give myself a little more room.  In the process, I noticed the giant holes that were caused by attaching my brooches to the lightweight linen.  So I decided to make an adjustment there as well by adding some small fabric loops at the top edge of the dress.  This way I can put the pins through the loops instead of actually through the fabric and the weight of the brooches won’t drag holes in the fabric.

New StrapsAfter that, I decided to take off the shoulder straps I’d originally made and replace them with longer loops as well.  This is a method that has been documented in a number of Norse grave finds, where small bits of fabric are sometimes found still within the brooches.  Again this seems like a sensible solution because it saves the fabric from being pierced over and over again and having heavy pins and strings of beads hanging from it.

While I was at it, I also used some fine crochet thread to make a thin lucet cord so I could restring the coiled bronze beads the Hubs acquired from Duke Eikbrandr a couple of years ago (I think when I originally made this dress).  I’ve had them strung on a couple of strands of crochet thread since then because it was what I had on hand at the time, but that string finally wore through a couple of weeks ago.  While restringing I also added a few small glass beads to the strand to set off the special twisted beads.  This made the bronze strand a little longer than it used to be, so I need to make a third strand to go in between.  Luckily, I have some beads on hand…

There!  A post after a long absence.  Luckily, there’s more to come, since I have other projects in the works – stay tuned!

Three Scrolls

March 9, 2016

Continuing my updates, here are the scrolls I’ve been working on over the last few months.  We’ve had a busy time here, with 12th Night, Val Day, and Terpsichore at the Tower all having royalty in attendance, so there’s been a lot of scribal work to do.

12th Night Cavendish 16

For 12th Night I was assigned a Cavendish Knot, a fencing award, for a lady who goes by the nickname of Fish.  I did a little searching and found a cool manuscript from the 7th century where many of the illuminated capitals are actually made up of simplified fish shapes!  I used an example of a capital S from the manuscript and the followed the same pattern to frame the award’s device at the bottom.  The recipient was very excited and found me just after court to say thank you, which is always nice to hear.

Val Day DH 16


Val Day brought me a Dragon’s Heart, which is a pretty significant award, so I like to do something a little fancier for these.  I decided on an Italian White Vine design – a 15th century style that originated in Italy (go figure) and became popular throughout Europe.  It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I was reminded how enjoyable the style is.  The nice thing is that, while the design can be complex, the painting is not – basically solid areas of color filling in the spaces between the vines, with no shading required.  Right up my alley!

Terp Fret 16


Finally, there was a short court list for Terpsichore (less than a month after Val Day) and I was assigned a Purple Fret for a person who is very active in the music and dance community.  I looked for some appropriate medieval musical notation and found a 14th century manuscript that included the notation for a popular song called “Sumer is Icumen In” (basically Summer is Coming) and used that as the basis for my scroll.  Like the original, I alternated lines of musical notation with text and had alternating lines of black and red lettering.

I like the freehand capitals I devised for this one, as well as the highlight details on the fret.  Little touches like the white detail really make the form stand out and give a more finished look.

Now we should have some time off from scribal work since there isn’t a court scheduled in our area for quite a while.  The regional Arts and Sciences Fair is coming up, though, and I have a project in the works for that.  More to come!

Mostly March

March 2, 2016

The end of February and beginning of March have brought some adventurous weather, with about a foot of snow falling last week (which melted over the weekend) and then another 8 inches this week (which should all be gone by early next week).  Hooray for March!

12th Night 2016 BookmarksMy latest weaving project was a set of tablet-woven bookmarks for each of the baronies of Pentamere.  These were displayed as part of the “Dirty Dozen” largesse competition at 12th Night.  Because I made 12 bookmarks for each barony, plus 12 for the kingdom, I also qualified for the “over-achiever” category which gained me a prize of some Japanese kumihimo braid made by another lady in the region.  I still need to coordinate with her on what I want.

At any rate, the bookmarks were fun to make and got me back into the swing of things with weaving.  I haven’t made anything since, but I hope to be a bit more crafty in the coming weeks.

February Fun

February 20, 2016

This might be the longest I’ve ever gone between posts – almost three months!  I’ve been doing things, and I’ve thought about posting but just never gotten around to it.  With a little bit of free time this weekend, an update is finally here.

So, when last we left off it was Thanksgiving, which meant end of the semester, lots of grading, and lots of Christmas cookie baking (and consequently not a lot of time for blog posting).

Brown Butter StarsFor this year’s Christmas cookie collection, I made mostly recipes I’ve used before.  The four new recipes were, first, a Brown Butter Sugar Cookie from King Arthur Flour.  These were supposed to be made with some patterned cookie stamps from KA, but I just made them as star-shaped cutouts.

Next, I was looking for a slice-and-bake or icebox cookie and thinking of something orange, so I found these Orange Pecan Cookies from Taste of Home.  Though I apparently forgot to take a picture of the finished cookies, they turned out nicely, with a light orange flavor.  It’s funny that Taste of Home doesn’t have a picture with the recipe either!

Coconut SnowballsTaste of Home also gave me a recipe for Coconut Snowballs.  I had some coconut in the freezer to use up and these made a tasty option.  The coconut ends up being a little crunchy and chewy at the same time.  If I make these again, I might get some coconut extract to add a little extra flavor.  These get a second roll in powdered sugar before serving, so they’ll have a more finished look.

Cherry Jam SlicesFinally, the best new recipe was one that I think I found on Yahoo in one of their Christmas cookie articles – Striped Icebox Cookies.  These were super!  Nice crunchy texture from the cornmeal in the cookie dough, and tart, fruity layers of jam filling in between.  A little fiddly to make, but a yummy result.

Packed Tin 2015And here is the finished result – 12 different kinds of cookies packed in their tin.  I gave a lot away, as usual – family, friends, neighbors – and also contributed a lot of what I had left to a peerage vigil at 12th Night, so by now they are all gone and we won’t be eating Christmas cookies at Easter this year!

Thanksgiving Weekend!

November 28, 2015

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since I last posted, but this has been an extraordinarily busy semester, with many classes that have occupied my time.  I’ve thought about making an update here, especially after the last event we attended, but other obligations called and in my free moments I felt less like spending more time on the computer.

But now we are at Thanksgiving and I’ve had a couple of days off, or at least with no classes to attend to.  There’s always grading to be done, but I finished the last of that today, so I should have at least one day free to relax a bit before the last couple of weeks of the term.

So I have a scroll update and a weaving update from Grand Day of Tournaments at the start of November.  For this event, the tournament prizes are contributed by members of the Barony of Cynnabar and I have typically done some woven trim either in inkle or card weaving.

This year I did a card weaving, as usual in Cynnabar’s colors of red, black, and white:
Grand Tourney 2015

This was an interesting weave.  For the two vertical sections in the picture, the length on the right was supposed to be the “front” side of the weaving, but I rather like the look of the “back” side on the left length as well.  I guess it’s up to the recipient to decide which they like better!

I also did a scroll assignment for court – a Bronze Ring, which is a fencing award:
Grand Tourney Bronze Ring 15

The only thing I’m not entirely happy with here is the spacing I left at the top.  I think I should have left at least another line width between the upper border and the start of the text, but I wasn’t sure how the spacing would work out originally, so I kept things close.

The design here is inspired by a bit of decoration on a 15th century Dutch Bible held in the British Library (Additional MS 15410, f. 54).  I like the relative simplicity of the decoration, though it looks more complex than it actually is.

X-es and…Well, more X-es!

September 29, 2015

Two dear friends of ours were married about ten days ago and since they are both adults with an established household, they didn’t really need much in the way of the usual wedding gifts.  They’d also indicated on their website that handmade gifts were welcome and I like to give something personalized to close friends on occasions like this.

I’ve been doing counted cross stitch since I was young (probably 10 years old or so), though it’s kind of gone by the wayside a little bit since I’ve picked up a lot of other crafts through the SCA.  Still, I knew I wanted to do a wedding design as a gift for them.  I did some searching online until I found a pattern that I thought they’d really like – not too traditionally wedding-y (no hearts and flowers) and no sappy poetic verse (we’re not that kind of folks).  Luckily, I also found a site where I could just buy the pattern and not have to lay out a lot of money for a full kit since I have lots of embroidery floss already and a big piece of Aida cloth is relatively inexpensive.

I started stitching the day after we got home from Pennsic and I worked for an hour or two most nights.  I finished the work just in time – the Thursday evening before the wedding!  That left me just enough time on Friday to remove as much cat hair as possible and press the wrinkles out of the piece before wrapping it up.

I had originally planned to keep track of how much time the project took, but I never started writing things down.  I did, however, take a photo of my work each day so I could see the progress I made.  Instead of a whole series of images, I learned a very basic new skill and used Windows Movie Maker to stitch the images together into a time-lapse video with a musical accompaniment.

I still really like this design and I’m happy with the way it turned out.  I like my little video, too!

OK, other new thing learned – since I didn’t pay for the upgraded version of WordPress I had to upload my video to YouTube and link to it…  But, here’s at least a picture of the finished product!  Click the “my little video” link above if you want to see the whole thing.
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