Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Stained glass class at Practicum

I didn't teach any leather classes this year at Practicum, but that freed me up to take an all-day stained glass class. I've never done anything like that before so it was a good chance to take the time to learn the basics.

My finger tips are still recovering from all the little cuts but I had a lot of fun. I wasn't able to get it quite done before court, but Sciath was nice enough to let me finish up afterwards so I went home with a finished project.

It's definitely the kind of thing I could see myself doing more of, since I can use pre-done patterns to do the designs rather than rely on my lackluster artistic abilities (unless people want stick figures on their stained glass, I could handle that. From that perspective its similar to leather tooling or silk banner painting.

That first time to break the glass is stressful for sure. I wasn't sure if I'd done it right and didn't want to put too much pressure on it and have it shatter. But it just kind of worked right by magic. :)

It was also the first time since grade 8 IA class that I used a soldering iron (although Avelyn tells me I have one in the basement with my dad's old tools). Not sure how good a job I did but everything is attached and it hasn't fallen apart so it must be a passable job for a first try. :)

So, I think I'll put this on the list of things I could pick up down the road. The challenge is I don't have the space in the basement to setup another workstation, and I don't think little bits of sharp glass on the workstation mixes well with leather. So, it may have to wait until we have a bigger space so I can set something up.

I did look into it and there are two stained glass stores in Ottawa, so tools and equipment would be available if I need to acquire some stuff.

Here's the finished project:

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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Voyage of the Stick Purse (AKA Crazy European Adventure)

I know, it's been a while since I've posted, real life and work have meant I've done very little A&S activity this past 6+ months. But I have a doozy of a post for you this time.

This fall Avelyn and I spent almost a month travelling through Europe. We stopped in Paris for almost a week, and then did a tour through Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. On the trip, I was on the lookout for representations of the stick-purse. I also planned a visit to the Fries Museum to actually see the original artefact and see if I could see for myself some of the construction questions I still had. So, without further ado, here are examples of the stick-purse that I found.


We saw lots of really cool things in France, but only one stick purse to be found. It's a post period painting from the Louvre called A man weighing gold by Gerard Dou. I've posted the pictures on my smugmug account at:


More luck in Belgium. We stopped in both Brussels and Bruge and I found an example at the Old Masters museum in Brussels. This one is  also post-period and is called The Money Counter by Willem van der Vliet. Here's the link:


We found a few good examples here but not as many as I expected. I'll go in order. First up is the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam. They had a couple of post-period etchings that I hadn't seen before.

The first one is "Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple" by Rembrant.

The second is an engraving done by Salomon Savery based on Rembrant's work, also post period.

There were no stick-purses in Amsterdam that we found, but then we went to the Fries Museum to see THE stick-purse. :)

I took dozens of close ups from multiple angles. Main discoveries were that it looks like I did in fact engineer the bottom and the back seem correctly, which is what I really was hoping to be able to check (yay). However, in discussion with Avelyn and looking closely, the pouch probably had flaps originally. There are what look like leather buttons still attached to the pouches. Here are a few pictures, but all of them are posted in the Fries Museum album.


Our next stick-purse sighting was in Cologne Germany at the Wallraf Museum. Here we found two new paintings I'd never seen before (they have no mention of money changers or anything related in their titles).

The first is a painting called The Quill Pen Cutter (I know, right????) from 1627 by Jan Lievens.

The second one is Sampson and Delilah by Jan Steen from about 1660. Again it had nothing really to do with the topic but there's a money lender in the corner of the painting.

None of these paintings were part of my original research of the stick-purse, so I feel like I've added to my knowledge, even if they were all post period. Plus I was able to confirm that my informed guesses about the construction of the Fries purses were bang on, which makes me pretty happy (even if I do need to make a new one now to add the flaps.) :)

Monday, 28 November 2016

Epic QPT (as always)

This blog post isn't about anything that I have made, but rather about all the things I saw at QPT.

This year, for the first time, I wasn't eligible to enter Queen's Prize Tourney. It felt really odd not entering QPT.

Having received my Crucible at Feast of the Hare, I had a couple of weeks to find someone to sponsor....and boy did I ever.

I'm super proud of  Marguerite of Boldt Castle. Not only did she make some really awesome period gingerbread, but then she turned it into a gingerbread diorama (which is a bit of a running joke locally thanks to her dad). She totally made the recipe herself (with just a little bit of help from her mom for the steps involving heating the honey on the stove), but she actually adjusted the spicing of the recipe based on taste, rather than just sticking with the recipe as it was printed. There are adults that don't do that kind of adjustment, never mind a six-year-old!!!! The best part is both she and her mom were super jazzed about the day and really seemed like they had a good time.

As my sponsor prize I brought something that would be appropriate for a youth entry (I actually brought a couple of things for different age groups). I ended up giving my prize to Saraphina of Caldrithig. My prize was a starter set for silk banner painting, including a piece of silk, 8 colours of dye, a tube of black gutta and two brushes. I chose Saraphina because I heard that she didn't really enjoy the spinning she did for her project, so I thought I'd give her something new to try - maybe she'll like that better. She's also really local (like 3 minutes from our house) so I offered to come over at some point to teach her how it works.

I also helped judge four projects, which I think went pretty well. I feel like I was more actively involved in the discussions this year (Master Dafydd may have made a comment about "our newest Crucible proving his mettle..or would that be metal ...or something like that). :) Hopefully I was able to help some people out rather than scaring them off. Also got a really nice compliment from HE Lidr that kind of made me think.

Lots of other people entered some really cool stuff. Both Avelyn and Emelote had entries, along with a whole bunch of other Skraels. Sounds like everyone I talked to had a really positive experience.

Unfortunately I don't have pictures of everyone's projects this time, didn't have time with everything else going on during the day. But I know THL Alexander took pictures all day so I'll just have to look forward to them like everyone else does. :)

I have my pictures from court posted though, you can see them here.

Friday, 11 November 2016

News and Thinky Thoughts from Feast of the Hare

So, now that the post about the projects for Feast of the Hare is out of the way, I can report on the rest of the stuff that happened at the event. This is going to be another long one I think (sorry).

It was a crazy busy Feast of the Hare this year, even more than usual. Part of that was because we hosted the Rick Mercer Report, which was pretty cool. I spent a large part of the day running around to support Avelyn while she did her job as Kingdom Media Relations Deputy, and of course taking pictures.

Here's a pic I took while I was playing paparazzi.

The other thing I did over the course of the day was a little bit of fencing. I haven't been to practice much lately, but I always try to enter the Baronial Champion Tourney, which is run at Hare. I feel its part of my job as a former Champion to participate.

This year the format was different. It was a single elimination tourney with retained wounds, which means when I lost my left arm in the first fight, I couldn't use it for the rest of the tournament. We started out with eight fighters but due to a double kill in the first round, we had three finalists. I suggested to Her Excellency that we do a last man standing melee to solve it, rather than a round robin. She grinned and giggled with glee (she may have also chanted Kill, Kill, Kill, I can't remember).

I was at a disadvantage without my left arm, but I probably had a bit of an advantage in having fought in a lot of melee situations, so it may have balanced out. We swirled around for a while and then after a minute or so of back and forth, first one than the other of my opponents were out and I was last left standing. So I am now both the Rapier and Thrown Weapons champion for the Barony (although apparently I'm not allowed to throw my rapiers, which really takes some of the fun out of it). :)

During Baronial court, in addition to officially being named as Their champion, I also assisted with the presentation of taxes. This year the taxes for the populace taking a class and teaching a class, which totally falls within the scope of my job as Minister of Arts and Sciences. So I plotted with Her Excellency Lucia to introduce some shtick. After everyone else presented their taxes, I presented Their Excellencies with a scroll that captured all teaching and learning that had been reported to me in our A&S reports for the year. I offered to read it out alphabetically, but given the scroll was 10 feet long, I thought I'd save the populace that pain and just rolled it out in front of Their Excellencies. It went down to my feet and across the floor, it was epic!

Then, during Kingdom court, something else happened. It's a bit of a blur, but I was busy taking pictures as usual when Their Majesties called up the Order of the Crucible. The next thing I know my name is being called, and now I am a member of that really impressive Order (I even have a really awesome scroll to prove it).

After I stood up I got swarmed by a whole bunch of people giving me hugs, AElfwyn being first in line. Beyond that it was all kind of a blur, but it was really awesome being surrounded by so many people who I really respect and consider my friends. The fact that they wanted me to join them and think I belong, and that Their Majesties agreed, was a bit overwhelming.

So this is where the thinky thoughts come in. For a guy with zero artistic ability (who nearly failed art class in Junior High and never took anything artistic except for performance arts after that), being inducted to a Grant-level order for my work in the arts and sciences is kind of mind boggling. I still think of myself as the same guy who took that very first Intro to Leatherworking class from Tiberius at Practicum 5-6 years ago.

But its also I think a really good story to tell new people who join the SCA. I can't draw, or paint, or really do anything that modernly we would consider "art", and yet here I am making things like the stick-purse or my black and white kidney pouch, and having people come to me for advice on leatherworking (that still feels weird, my first reaction is still to redirect them to someone who knows what they're doing). If I can learn this stuff, dig into it, and get to this point - anybody can with a bit of work and some elbow grease.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Unveiling the Feast of the Hare Projects (with pictures)

Heading into Feast of the Hare, Avelyn and I may have set a personal record for the number of projects we had on the go for any one event. To the point where Avelyn was having to turn stuff down because we just didn't have time to do it all.

Now that everything has been presented, I can unveil the stuff I worked on.

Our Baronial Signet Mistress Alais contacted me to see if I would be willing to do a scroll for her. Given my total lack of any artistic ability, we laughed about that for a while, and then asked her what she had in mind.

Turns out Their Excellencies had a plan to award a matched set of five Hare Valiant awards to the five currently active Knights who call the Barony home. They would have matching wording, but Alais wanted each to receive some sort of customized scroll or token. I offered to take on the project for Sir AElfwyn and Avelyn offered to take on (or coordinate) the project for Sir Menken.

For AElfwyn:

I wanted to go outside the box. Everyone would expect me to make something out of leather, since that's what I'm know for and AElfwyn is my Laurel. But since when do I go the easy route? Plus, AElfwyn doesn't need me to make her leather items. So, I went the silk banner route. I went through a few different designs, but I eventually landed on something I felt I could produce (because my first few ideas were a little overly ambitious given the timeframe we had and my total lack of artistic ability).

Here's a picture of the banner in progress. The badge of the order is on the bottom half (on the right), while the top image is actually me taking a bit of creative license with period illuminations. I found period examples of a dog riding a boar, and another of a hare riding a dog. So in Photoshop I moved the hare over so it was riding the boar (AElfwyn's heraldic charge).

Around the edge of the banner in silver metalic gutta on black background are the mandatory elements of the scroll to make it official: Barony of Skraeling Althing - Order of the Hare Valiant to AElfwyn et Langenwuda by Their Excellencies Shahid and Catherine at Feast of the Hare November 5 AS 51. This was my first time doing text on a banner. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, although I don't think I'd want to go any smaller than the font size I used. I basically printed the text using calligraphy font on the computer (after checking with Alais to find one that was close as possible to an actual period calligraphy style of course) and then traced it onto the banner.

Here it is with the red coloured in (the shield on the original hare was green in the illumination, but I'm sure I'll be forgiven for going Skraeling/Ealdormere red). What you can't really see in the picture is that I also used silver and gold gutta to mark some metalic highlights in the swords to make them pop a bit.

After it was dry and fixed, Avelyn sewed on some bias tape on the top edge and made some loops so AElfwyn can hang it somewhere.

For Menken:

We knew we wanted to do something different for Menken, not the same type of banner that I did for AElfwyn. Each person needed to get something unique.

Avelyn engaged Lord James (Menken's Squire) to help with it. He worked with a fellow fighter (Paddy) to make an actual spear, which is very cool. I think Avelyn was just thinking an armoured combat spear but this is even better.

So, we had to figure a way to turn that into an official scroll-like item. At that point Avelyn got pulled into the chaos of organizing Rick Mercer's visit to the event, so I took over the work.

We decided to make a leather sheath for the spear, and then to do a small silk pennant to attach to it. Since we didn't want it to be too similar to the banner I did for AElfwyn, I tooled the mandatory wording around the edge of the sheath (rather than putting it on the pennant) along with the main charge from his heraldry (a fleur-de-lys and three billets fesswise) on one side. I then stained the leather using an antique finish and painted a bit of gold outline to mark where the blade actually sits in the sheath. I then stitched the two pieces together using some brown linen thread.

Here it is. Hardest part was definitely tooling the lettering.

For the pennant, Mel told me she wanted the chequey to feature prominently in the pennant, and we wanted to include the badge for the award since it wasn't on the leather sheath. This is the design I came up with based on what she told me she wanted.

and here it is after Avelyn did the bias tape and ties for the pennant, attached to the final spear.

I think if I had it to do over again I might make the badge a bit bigger, and would increase the area of the chequey, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with it. The badge was probably the most difficult part, those hares are pretty intricate for such a small size (up close, or backlit, there's a difference in tone between the black gutta and the black dye, so you can actually see much more detail).

Friday, 16 September 2016

Prep work for Feast of the Bear Part II - With Pictures

This is part two of my post on prep work we did for Feast of the Bear. Part one covered the making of AElfwyn's vigil book with Master Giovanni.

AElfwyn's vigil and elevation ceremony was based on Anglo-Saxon ceremonies. So we knew we needed to look the part. Now, I don't normally do early period beyond the occasional Norse, and I certainly didn't have any garb that suited a formal Anglo-Saxon event.  I also hadn't had any luck in the past making a pair of shoes that actually fit and looked right.

Sooo, new garb and new shoes were in the cards.


I'd previously made a pair of shoes but the ended up being way too wide and about two sizes too big because I did a poor job of tracing the sole. But they also weren't particularly early period, so I needed to adjust the pattern for the uppers as well.

I used my milled veg tan leather (which was the leather from the Stick-Purse) and dyed it using walnut dye extract that I bought on our trip to Montreal. It produced the same nice brown as the black walnuts without the mess of handling them. Just add water. :)

The shoes are stitched using waxed linen thread.

Here is the one shoe before I turned it and then after fighting with it to turn it right-side out.

And here are the two shoes turned and on my feat to test the fit (still a little bit wide and long but certainly wearable).

The original artifacts often have holes along the top edge, which may suggest edge trim was applied to clean it up. I also find it stiffens up the shoe a bit so it holds its shape a bit better, so I did that too. I left the leather natural colours as I thought it would give good contrast with the darker brown shoes.

Carlson also has an interesting latch system for keeping the shoes closed, which don't actually use any stitches to anchor the latches. I'd never tried that before but gave it a shot, and it seems to work OK. You cut small holes and wedge thicker straps through the holes and it locks into place.

So here's the finished shoe. You'll see them on my feet in the garb pictures below as well.


While I was working on the book cover and the shoes, Avelyn was busily working on making me look good. :)

We got all the fabric we needed in Montreal, and commissioned Baroness Mahault to do up some nice boar-themed embroidery for the collars and cuffs.

Avelyn spent weeks leading up to the event sewing the tunics, and spent her day at the event hand stitching a cap for me.

I'll leave the details to her to tell since it wasn't my project but needless to say I'm super appreciative. She did an awesome job. Thanks also to Emelote and Bethoc for last minute help getting the finishing touches done on the night before we left. :)

The undertunic, cap and shoes

Here I am on the left in the overtunic.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Making stuff for Feast of the Bear - Part 1 (With Pictures)

Feast of the Bear was a super important event this year, but that's not all that unusual. For some reason, stuff seems to happen at Feast of the Bear. That's the event I received my Award of Arms in 2008, at the very same church where it was held this year.

At Trillium war in July, to a great deal of rejoicing, Mistress AElfwyn was put on vigil for the Order of Chivalry. Their Majesties wanted to do the elevation before the end of Their reign, so AElfwyn selected Feast of the Bear as her elevation event.

As AElfwyn's apprentice, I had a small part in the ceremony, so we've spent the past few weeks making things so that I would look the proper Anglo-Saxon(ish) part. That's why we did the fabric shopping trip to Montreal, so we could find fabric that had the right colour tones and fibre content. I also made a pair of new shoes, since a pair of modern running shoes would have ruined the look. :)

On top of all that, Master Giovanni asked me to work with him again on the vigil book by doing the leatherwork for the cover.

So, its been a busy few weeks. Here is part one of my Feast of the Bear work, the vigil book. Other stuff will be covered in the next post.

The book:

I knew I wanted to do something more than just dye the leather, which certainly added some complexity for both me and Giovanni. I had to be precise in the measurements to make sure any tooling etc. was placed correctly for when he made the book. I pushed the envelope a lot on this one, doing a number of new techniques I'd never tried under a tight timeline. Some of it worked, others didn't. In the end, I figured that AElfwyn would appreciate me trying to push the envelope so I went with it. :)

My initial idea was to base the cover on the St Cuthbert Gospel, which is an 8th century Anglo-Saxon book. However, the cover on the Gospel is super complex, with raised sections, tooled sections and is both dyed red and painted with gold highlighting (or more likely gold leaf). Given the timeline for the project I thought it best to take inspiration from the design, but not to try to replicate it entirely. I also wanted to customize it a bit for AElfwyn by replacing the core design with a boar.

First I had to sand the leather to get the pressed layer off (I had to do the same thing for the last book we did, it was AElfwyn's suggestion at the time). Once it was sanded I did the tooling. Here's the tooled wet leather:

Once I did the tooling I realized I screwed up my placement, and essentially tooled the back cover. So I had to modify the plan and do matched tooling on the front and back, like so:

Once the leather was tooled I had to dye it. This is where I made another mistake. Rather than using my existing period red dye recipe, I tried to modify the process based on what Mistress Lucrece did for her recent book project. My hope was that it would give me a truer red. But these are natural dyes and any little variation can throw things off, so it ended up not working out quite the way I intended. The colour was more a brownish purple than red, and it didn't bind well to the leather. More experimentation needed, but I ran out of time and had to go with it since a dye batch takes a couple of days to make.

The dying process took a few days between pre-treating the leather with alum water and then doing multiple coats of dye with drying time between. Just in case the tooled section messed up I dyed the whole skin so Giovanni would have enough space to make a plain leather cover as a back-up plan.

Once it was dried, I used my black water-based leather dye from Zeli's to make the boars black. Unfortunately I found because the red dye wasn't adhering well to the leather, painting on top of it also presented challenges. Each black coat had to dry much longer before I went back for another coat, or it would come right off. I was also worried it would rub off when my top coat was applied.

Once I got the black to where I was happy with it, I took some metallic gold craft paint and a micro brush and painted all of the tooling lines on the boars. I bought five different types of paint and tested them to see which was the least likely to rub off. The best of the bunch was from Martha Stewart that I bought at Michael's.

Here are pictures of the boars painted.

I then had to decide what to do with the border. The original Gospel had a raised line that delineated the border, but the logistics of knowing how much space to leave Giovanni to do that were daunting, so I decided to skip that. In the end I decided to paint the knotwork with the gold paint, but leave the outer lines plain.

After that I let it all dry and applied the a modern top coat to hopefully stop anything from rubbing off as the book was handled. This led me to doing a bit of touching up on the boars as some of the black flaked off, and it did wear away some of the colour, but not too bad. I also had a problem with the top coat making a chalky layer on the leather, which has never happened before. That really pissed me off but no amount of buffing was helping get rid of the coating.

In the end I think it turned out pretty well, although there's a number of things I would do differently. Giovanni did a great job making the book itself. I'm sure it was a nightmare trying to make sure the covers lined up properly because of the tooled border. 

Avelyn described it as looking like an actual artifact that was pulled form the ground (which I think is something that would please AElfwyn) because of the way the dyes rubbed off in some places. It looks weathered.

Here's a picture of the final book that Giovanni took once it was finished.