And now for something a little different..

I was commissioned to do a scroll for Mistress Rogned Steingrimovna to be presented at her event (one of my favourites) the second RaÞlheimr Alþing.  Her persona is a Rus Viking and the event encourages everyone to come in Viking or early period garb and try weaving, blacksmithing, or messing about on boats, island hopping on Lough Ree.   Lough Ree saw conflict between Olafr Ceancaireach (Olaf the scabby-head) and Olafr Gothfrithsson  in 937, and the finding of Viking hoards on Hare Island in 1802.  It’s a gorgeous site and a fantastically relaxed event, it has been blessed these past two years with glorious crisp, golden weather.  With such a strong viking theme I decided to try something a little different than a paper scroll and standard illumination,  so I thought engraving might be appropriate. Having plundered some slate (fitting,  I felt) I wanted a reasonably straightforward but distinctively viking design.  In the end I based it on an anglo-saxon illumination of a Viking ship c. 1025–1050. (Ms. Cotton Tiberius. B V, part I, fol. 40v.  London, British Library.)  Visit the image

As engraving is new to me I decided not to try a new hand, and as it happens I favour the early Irish hands generally. To make the detail a little more obvious I touched in with silver ink.


 As with my illumination I need work on steadying my hand and perfecting fine detail, but I hugely enjoyed the process.  It was kind of fun handing their Highnesses a little box of soapstone chisels and a bottle of silver ink for signing this one🙂

Who’s a fFraid of Lady Gytha?

Lady Gytha has discovered heavy fighting.  I mean obviously she knew it existed since we both went along to Champions of Lough Devnaree a couple of years back, but now she has *discovered* it in the sense that she is actively partaking in it and probably dreams about it morning, noon and night.  It’s awesome, there is something really cool about seeing people find their “thing” in the SCA and launch into it with a whole heart.  At Raglan fair she was pretty much fighting with brief interludes  to claim the fruit left over at the bottom of Baroness Ari Mala’s really excellent fruit gins.

Roll on a little while later and I am assigned a scroll to add the awesome Lady Gytha to the Order of fFraid at this year’s Champions of Lough Devnaree.  Our Principality Signet, the said and very esteemed Baroness, suggested Egerton 1146 in the Bodleian Library  in light of Gytha’s fruit picking proclivities.  Those of us who know Lady Gytha will be familiar with the running theme of “nunneries” associated with her, so I chose to add a couple of famous illuminated nuns.  I decided to keep the fighter motif for a future award🙂

This was a project that really made me appreciate when I get to collaborate on scrolls with a better calligrapher.  In the end I ended up doing the end illumination first and thankfully managed to pull of a combat scribe situation on the day.

Of things that are linden..

I have recently learned that, medievally speaking, linden was the adjective used to describe things made from limewood in the same way that wooden describes items made from wood generally.  I have absolutely no idea why that fascinates me, but it does.  I have always liked lime trees, though as a child I was disappointed to find that the trees we called limes here were not the fruit bearing kind. Through my dad I have been aware of lime wood being good to carve, in the same way I picked up the names of plants from my mother – some weird knowledge osmosis.  Lime (or Linden) wood is a very sparsely grained, easy to work, pale timber that takes very crisp detail and smooths beautifully.  The timber is good for food use and the tree itself is known for its pleasantly drinkable flowers and young leaves.

Two of our number in the Shire of Eplaheimr married each other during the summer this year and Mistress Rogned came up with the genius idea of a dowry box for Lady Patrice to be presented to the happy couple by their Highnesses Pól and Caitriona at Raglan.  There were all manner of lovely things added to the box and  I decided to try making two little tasting cups from limewood as my contribution.  (The idea being that the happy couple could expect that many would wish to join with them to drink to their good health and if they drank a full measure every time that health might not hold out, so great a number there would be)  In the SCA I’ve noticed that it’s very handy to keep little cups on your person to taste all the delicious meads, fruit elixirs and spiced wines that tend to circulate.


I wasn’t working to medieval examplars in this instance, and they’re not perfectly matched but I was really pleased with them.

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling..


, , ,

I had two shared assignments for Ffair Rhaglen this year, both Silver Martlets for very deserving people.  The first was for Lord Duncan Chaucer with a specific request to include a peacock. My younger son aspires to dress as well as Lord Duncan does, and his hats are the stuff of legend.    Time constraints made me go for a simpler design than my originally intended one but I was pleased with end result.     The words and calligraphy – complete with mistake the good Lady as herald was able to work beautifully into the presentation – were by Lady Sela de la Rosa.  She also provided the same for the second, for Richard de Quintone. He joins the order primarily for his brewing skills, which, after trying some of his very refreshing small beer I can heartily attest to being excellent indeed.   In my head medieval depictions of brewers and brewing tend to be woodcuts.   I’ve been  looking to try and refine my fine lines and squiggles so I chose to try mixing up two extant images, one monochrome, structural looking Q and a woodcut style image of a brewer among his barrels.    The photograph is not a good one, I should have taken it at a proper angle, and the scroll itself wasn’t completely finalised and cleaned up .  In hindsight I think I should have added some gilding rather than leaving it the plain black.


(references for the original primary sources these are based on to follow, they’re in my notes elsewhere)

The elevation of Master Baron Master Master Etienne


, ,

Master Etienne Fevre de Dion is one of those amazing people; talented, effortlessly eloquent, debonair, inventive and Machiavellian of persona enough to keep you on your toes.  I met him at my first event and was struck in two ways – 1) I want to be like him when I grow up,  and 2) horrible levels of  “I carried a watermelon” type interactions.    He and Master Duarte Goncalves de Montes were demonstrating fencing, complete with witty repartee, style, flair and all that good stuff. The telling part was that he managed to get ‘2 left feet’ me to give it a quick try.  When I think of Fencing/Rapier in the SCA the first person who comes to mind is, for me, Master Etienne.  He is also, as he likes to tell me, my Evil Step Laurel.  I’d like you to imagine, then, how happy I might have been to be asked to help with his elevation to Master of Defense.  More, to get to be a handsome, blond Viking for the ceremony – ok, I read the very lovely words prepared by my Apprentice brother, Master Æiríkr inn Hárfagri.  He/I was representing the Order of Defense for the occasion.

During the Vigil Master Etienne and I had a brief discussion (more watermelons is basically the way I remember it) but the outcome was that since I didn’t have advise to impart at the moment I would have to give it, publicly, at another time.  As it turned out I had a new Glückhaus board for him as a gift for the occasion.  When I ran my first event (Court of Love) I had planned for thrown weapons activities and had arranged for the delivery of a ring of cut down tree to serve as a target.  Unfortunately the delivery didn’t happen and Master Etienne saved the day by using the back of his own Glückhaus board.   The gift was a physical way of saying thank you and that when someone gives something of themselves it’s taken away by the receiver, thought on, remembered and encourages a like response. Excellent example is a great gift to the world.  Of course there was another person there, Lady Sela de la Rosa – whose eloquence also stirs tides of envy in my soul – and her words at the ceremony said this (and much more) far better.  I hope she publishes it sometime.

For my part I forgot to take a photo of the finished board, but this is an in progress shot


So where was I..

There have been real life work projects.  They have been consuming ALL the time and head-space – stupidly so – to the point where my SCA life was pretty much shelved and reluctantly ignored for the past several months.  Things are starting to free up again so here I am (not completely out of the woods yet, but look! Aren’t those things trees?!)

The problem with a long period away is that it makes catch up blog posts more daunting than they probably need to be.  I’ll give a whistle stop tour so that I can start thinking of new  posts as less Herculean tasks.

The first is that at 12th Night Coronation of King Vitus and Queen Isabel in Ingestre Hall – a lovely 17th-century Jacobean mansion situated near Stafford in England – all kinds of awesome things happened including a very, very lovely ceremony making me Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter’s newest apprentice. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to some new and absolutely lovely people from all over the Kingdom, including my apprentice brother Master Æiríkr inn Hárfagri, one of the original first three Masters of the Order of Defence in Drachenwald.   I confess a lot of the occasion is a wonderful blur –  I will have to come back to it after I get past my blog writer block and post separately, it deserves a bit more than a catch up post mention.   

There has been cooking.  I was head cook for Collegium, Glen Rathlin’s fencing event 4-6th March 2016.  As I am not a fencer and it was to be a small event I undertook to provide traveller’s fare, breakfast, lunch and feast with as many recipes from The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi as I could because I just love his recipes.  I think to make this easier I’ll make a few small posts about my favourite dishes from the weekend, but for now I have to say the *MOST enormous* thank you to Lady Alays de Lunel and Timothy of Eplaheimr for their help throughout the weekend – they were wonderful and amazing and deserving of a great many fantastic things, and of course to Lady Constanza of Thamesreach for sanity and assistance.   His majesty King Vitus said extremely kind things about my cooking and gave me a gorgeous box of spices at the event itself and then 2 beautiful veil pins at Festival of Fools.   I was also given the most gorgeous folding spoon by Lord Duncan Kerr – I am a happy cook🙂

Regarding archery, Aodh and I came to an arrangement to swap bows so I could see if having a lighter poundage would help but I haven’t had a lot of chances to try it out yet, as I was minioning for the weekend at Flaming Arrow, but soon I hope!

There have been a few new scrolls, mostly I’m still having enormous trouble with precision, but I practice ever on.  I had the great pleasure of creating a scroll for Lady Sela’s induction into the Order of Robin, also at Flaming Arrow – that one was fun. I wanted something to reflect some of her great loves.  I chose wordsmithing and astronomy and worked on a scroll based on the 29th or Star-Shaped Diagram Of Poetic Metre, In James Nicholas of Denmark’s Poems written in 1363 in honour of Aymer of Valence, Earl of Pembroke (d.1324) (Shelfmark: Cotton MS Claudius A XIV,  f.23r) Lord Aodh provided the words – I needed every line to begin and end with M 

I really missed Lady Sela’s calligraphy skills on that one!  She and I continue to collaborate on projects – also for Flaming Arrow we worked together on a Fox for Viscountess Susannah (words also by Lady Sela) and the Winter Archery prize scroll

Last but not least is the fastest AoA I’ve ever done -calligraphy and illumination on this one – and it had to be handed out not quite finished as the assignmment came in very quickly after their Hignesses Pól and Caitriona took their thrones not even a week before last weekend’s event Festival of Fools – I need to add some gilt ivy leaf decoration around the edges and remove the pencil marks and the small gold blob that seemed to appear out of nowhere.  The recipient Christian, called the enabler,whose name is not nor never shall be Rupert seemed pleased – with thanks to Lord Aodh again for the wording.

Coming up in Part 2! The elevation of Master Baron Master Master Etienne ….

Ink Making for all!

Some time ago there was a plot where I would go to Yule Ball and Kingdom University and there Mistress Genevieve Rouge Maunche and I would teach a class on making ink.  In the mean time various things conspired against my attendance (mostly very good things, mind) but we plotted some more, class notes were written and take home kits planned and now I am giving the class at Yuletide University in Ireland and Mistress Genevieve is giving it at Yule Ball the following weekend.

These are a couple of the kits I’ve prepared and sent for Yule Ball – the biggest one at the back contains the teaching kit and the smaller ones at the front are a couple of the student kits.   I’ve added my own little tokens to thank everyone in the class for participating🙂

You can download the Irongall Ink making classnotes in pdf format.  If you have any problems with this download or document please do let me know.

Garb making for a Viking Event



I think I’ve recounted my complete bewilderment in the face of garb before. I feel in some way as if I’m just moaning when I say I really don’t get it.  I suspect it’s got something to do with the fact that I don’t really know what shape I am, apart from  “generally blob shaped”, and while intellectually I genuinely can see how the series of rectangles and long triangles I’ve been introduced to can combine to fit on roundy bits and look really well it’s like some other part of my brain just goes “Nope” and walks away.

Dun in Mara held a garb making weekend a couple of weekends ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wanted to try to start something to wear for the upcoming Althing, but mostly I really just wanted the very pleasant company, to sit and sew.    I actually quite like the sewing bit.  On the Friday I finished some hemming on a tunic I cut out for my eldest.  On Saturday I was starting to feel bad procrastinating (and just looking at the jade coloured linen I brought along, willing it to become something by itself).  I was temporarily saved by an impromptu class on how to identify fibre using a burn test given by the weekend organiser Lady Cassandra della Corona – this was brilliant, I’ve heard about the burn test before, but it was great to have a run through with different samples and really see and smell the differences.   After that I was chatting with Cassandra who was has been doing amazing research, she was trying to visualize her way through deciding how she wanted to work with her Hedeby/Haithabu inspired options for an apron dress.

Jade dress side

I cheekily volunteered my fabric and my generally blob shaped self to experiment with so she could try out one version without committing her fabric ’til she had seen how it worked. Turns out she really liked this idea, score!! She talked me through her ideas, drafted the pattern and cut the pieces and all I had to do was sew them up, which I did by hand. Heaven!!!  I’m going to refer to her blog for much better details than I can report on at this point.. 

Her research had led her to understand that we could use darts in the back to further shape it and she pinned it up for me again to sew.  Her further research after the event revealed that we should have used darts to the outside rather than the modern way on the inside, but I’m not going to worry about it.  What I need to worry about is finishing it!!  I had all sorts of ideas that I might get some simple embroidery done on it.. procrastination is a terrible thing.  This weekend I’m going to have to put in some serious work to finish the seams, get the straps on and make accessories.

More illuminations..

More to follow, just needed to add the photos but I can say right now that these scrolls are the point at which I have decided once and for all I need to start teaming up with a good calligrapher.  The second one, based on the “Chansonnier De Jean De Montchenu,”  was my practice piece so the script is particularly poor, I was trying it for size.  The actual scroll I was working on got ruined at the last minute.

An Order of the Fox based on the Taymouth Hours, England, S. E. (London?), 2nd quarter of the 14th century for Lady Haesel of Bernslai


A promissory Ffraid for Lady Emoni de la Fére based on the “Chansonnier De Jean De Montchenu”,

Something’s Fizzing in the kitchen..


, ,

A quick interlude post before I tell you about some adventures in Garb making and a very lovely and relaxing time with fellow SCAdians at the Dun in Mara garb making weekend. There was also  lovely food courtesy of Lady Juliette (OMG deep fried courgettes, I forget how much I adore them)  But before all that I must say some things about the making of elderberry wine and raspberry and froachán melomel.

IMG_1187The elderberry wine got off to a dodgy start when I got to the planned harvest site where there have been enormous quantities of the things since I was young enough to take the trouble to lay them out on the road and stomp on them to fake gruesome murder sites.  (Not today or yesterday.)  Some kind and considerate person has taken some tractor mounted hedge cutter and has torn the entire face off every elder tree along the quiet country road. Luckily I remembered another site and while these ones weren’t as pleasingly plump as the other site’s had been shaping up to be, they were properly ripe and juicy.  I gathered about a kilo of them for batch one, set about de-stalking them with a fork then picked it over to remove the less ripe ones.  I added an equal quantity of sugar, some citric acid and red wine yeast and let them stew happily with at least one good stir for 5 days.  I am not as patient as I should be when straining the used berry mix through muslin, I sure I slopped a good glass full over the counter top through sheer impatience.  The whole lot is successfully strained, airlocked into a demijohn and it’s been cheerfully bubbling away ever since.

IMG_1183Project 2 is the melomel. I’m a little bit excited about this one because the flavour of the honey and fruit before I added the yeast was nicely intense.  I may be a bit of a sucker for raspberry melomel and fraocháns are probably my favourite berries in all the world.   I froze the fruit for a couple of weeks first, let it mush as it thawed and then let my 12 year loose on it with a potato masher.   I then heated 2 cups water per 1 cup honey for 3lbs of honey and boiled it for 10 minutes.

Ugh, right?  IMG_1186 It never ceases to amaze me how much scum comes off of boiled honey and water, and how much it looks like the scum you remove when boiling bacon, but it removed water impurities I’m told and idled away the waiting time.  Again impateince as I waited for the honey water to cool to proper blood heat temperatures, but I went off and did something useful and the result meant I had great fun for a couple of days watching the fruit trying to escape from the fermenting vessel.  It seems to be bubbling along very happily, no more escape attempts and it has an amazing colour.  Fingers crossed this one is going as well as I think it is.