Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Every year in February, the SCA group in Ottawa (Caldrithig) runs an event called Practicum, which is basically a day full of various classes on SCA topics. I've been a few times to attend classes but I find most years there just aren't enough classes on topics that interest me.

They've just sent out the call for teachers, and its got me to wondering if I should perhaps offer to teach a class or two this year.

My hesitations are:

1) I'm still pretty early on the leatherworking learning curve relatively speaking, so I'd be limited in what I could teach. Maybe an orientation to the basic tools and types of leather, and maybe a basic pouch making type class. And, even on those topics I'm certainly no expert.

2) On the topics I could teach, there are several people who often teach classes at Practicum that are much better qualified to teach them.

Essentially, if there's a gap I could probably fill it, but really the students would probably be better served learning from someone with more experience.

Down the road, I could definitly develop a class on the stick-purse and on my work with period leather dyes (once my experiemnts and research are done). But I'm still on the fence about this year.

So, what do you think - oh blog reading public?

Is there stuff I could teach that you'd find interesting?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Period Leather Dyes - Mellow Yellow

This weekend, while much of the Kingdom was at our Kingdom A&S event and Avelyn was raiding the lands to the south for Black Friday, I decided to get started with my leather dye project. I started with one of the recipes for a yellow dye, mainly because it only needed basic ingredients that can be found easily in Ottawa.

From my previous post, you'll know that the trickiest part of the recipe was the odd period measurements, which required a bit of math and some problem solving to work out.

On the way home from work on Friday I did an equipment and supply run. I picked up a cheap stainless steel pot and a small portable burner, so I wouldn't mess up our stove and good pots and pans. I can use the burner for when I'm doing wax hardened leather too, so it's been on our list of equipment to buy for a while. 

I also picked up some alum from Bulk Barn, on the advice of some of our local dying experts. I already had a good jar of turmeric so didn't need to pick up any extra.

Here's a picture of my set-up:

My work area before I started making a on my project.

The recipe itself was super easy. I just added all of the ingredients into the pot, mixed it up and let it boil until it had reduced by a third (about 20-25 minutes). If I'd used a bigger pot I probably could have done it faster, but it created a lot of foam and was in danger of boiling over, so I had to turn the heat down to a low simmer.

Here is a picture of the mixture:
Just add water,- before it got mixed
One interesting bit about the recipe was that it seemed to suggest that the mixture should be applied to the leather while it was still hot. This seemed unusual to me so I did a bit of an experiment. I did one square of leather while the mixture was still hot and then did a second square the next morning after it had cooled.

So far I've only noticed a slight bit of colour difference (the cold-applied dye was a bit darker), although the sediment in the mixture was more obvious when cold (I ended up having to wipe a bit of the sediment off the leather when I dyed it). I'll have to see if it makes a difference later.

The mixture definitely separates a fair bit when it sits, so mixing it well will be important if I use it cold.

Here's a picture of the jar of dye:

The finished dye the next morning. You can see the sediment settling on the bottom of the jar.
The end result is very nice actually. I think it will work really well as an accent colour with some of the other dye recipes. It's kind of a brownish-yellow colour.

Here's a picture of the end results:

On the left is the cold-applied dye. On the right is the hot applied dye. The bottom is the original colour of the leather so you can see the contrast.

Next Steps:

Since I'm happy with the colour, my next step is to figure out what to use to stop the colour from rubbing off. I don't want people with yellow marks on their garb from their pouch. I have the modern coating materials that I use with acrylic leather dyes, which could work. I'm sure there would be a period equivalent but haven't found a recipe yet.

I also think I'm going to do up a small pouch using this dye so I can see how it works in a larger piece. I may try a pouch similar to the kind that would be on the stick-purse, since that's ultimately where this is to be used.

Then I need to get my hands on some indigo pigment so I can make one of the blue dye recipes. I think the blue and yellow will work well together, and since those are the canton colours I may as well go that route for the stick-purse.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Period Dyes - Fun with Period Measurements

While I'm still waiting for the details from the museum on my stick-purse project, and now that I'm done the Kingdom badge leather carving project, my next bit of experimental leatherworking is going to be figuring out some period recipes for leather dyes. This will tie into the stick-purse as I'm going to want to use some of the dyes to help with that project as well.

This weekend, while everyone else is out of town, I'm going to start work on this.

The first and easiest recipe is for a yellow dye, so I'm going to start with that one. All of the ingredients are available in regular local stores, so I don't have to order any pigments online to get this one going.

The first step is to figure out the measurements. Most of the recipe is in ounces, so that's easy enough, but it does say to use "two half mezzette of clear water". First question to answer, what the heck is a mezzette?

I found a post-period reference from the 19th century that gives me some reference information for the mezzette as a measurement. It read " Liquid Measure. The Barile of wine is divided into 20 Fiaschi, 80 Mezzette, or 160 Quartucci, and contains 12*042 English gallons." (Source:

I'm going to assume that the asterisk is actually supposed to be a period, so that the measurement is 1 barile = 12.042 gallons.

Since there are 80 mezzette in a barile, that means that 1 mezzette = 0.15 gallons.

As a starting point, I'm going to assume that when the recipe says to use two half mezzette it actually means two and a half (instead of 1/2 + 1/2), so that means I need about 0.375 gallons of water, which works out to between 1.4 and 1.5 litres.

I'll start with that I guess and see how the dye turns out. The main pigment for this dye is turmeric, and I've found some modern recipes for dying fabric with turmeric, so I can always compare the concentrations and see if they match.

Updates to come on the weekend.

*** Oops - bad math.2.5 mezzette should be 0.45 imperial gallons, not 0.375. That is 2.05 litres. Didn't seem to affect the end result though.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Some project updates

I haven't really had much time to work on leather projects lately so I don't have enough to update on any individual project to justify a post. Instead, I thought I'd just do a quick post summarizing some updates and thoughts on some of the things I have on the go:


I finally heard back from the museum in the Netherlands about their stick-purse. As I thought might have been the case, my original e-mail must have gotten lost in the shuffle as they were moving to their new location. I re-sent the note last week and heard back within a couple of days. They've passed my questions on to the curator, so at least that's progress.

I was also talking with Avelyn about the project the other night. I'm hoping to have the purse completed in enough time before Kingdom A&S next year that I can actually try to convince the gatekeeper at a small local event (event still TBD) to try it instead of a cash-box to see how it works. I think that's really how the stick-purse would have been used in period, so I'd like to actually apply the concept in real life and get feedback that I can include in my A&S documentation.

Thinking about that, I need to figure out how to tell what coins are in what pouch. I don't think there's any evidence of how this would have been done in period. Perhaps the money-changer would know based on how they positioned the purse on the table. I'm also thinking the use of different colours on the pouches or the draw strings might have been an indicator. Maybe when I hear back from the curator I'll see if we can tell how the colouring on the pouch was applied (were they all the same colour, or were some different).

For my purposes I may just use different colour lacing to do the draw strings on each pouch, unless I get more info from the museum that indicates a different method.

Kingdom A&S

My Kingdom A&S submission is done for this year and I've given it to Eluned for her to take with her to the event. I've also sent in my forms in advance (even though that isn't necessary for beginner level projects) and followed up with a confirmation e-mail to the A&S Minister since I know they were having problems with the online form at one point.

My documentation ended up being a total of 22 pages, but a lot of that was the annexes which include photocopies of my references and resources. My actual written information was about 6 pages.

Hopefully it will go over well and there will be some folks there to judge it. There aren't a lot of people that specialize in leather tooling in Ealdormere (lots of people do it to some extent for armour and such but not necessarily as an A&S activity), but there are some very accomplished leather workers. Hopefully some of them will be there.

I'm a little concerned how they will judge it. While leather tooling is entirely period, and we have evidence that heraldry was tooled onto leather items, my projects are very much modern-SCA in orientation. I'm hoping they'll be OK with using period practices to produce items for use in the modern SCA.

Other Bits and Pieces

My heraldry that I submitted at Pennsic is working its way through the system and is now showing up in the OSCAR system as being out for the commentary period. Hopefully if all goes well I will have both my Arms and Badge passed early in the new year. Then I'll have to figure out the carving pattern for both. :) The badge should be fairly easy, just a blue calamari (aka krakan or squid) fieldless. The arms are a bit more complicated because there are two caravels (basically a large sailing ship) in chief that are fairly complicated to draw.

We've been doing a bit of A&S at home the past few nights, unrelated to leather. We bought some fabric paint markers and are experimenting with them vs using standard acrylic paints with fabric medium. If we can get the markers to work well it will make banner projects sooooooo much easier. We bought a few different brands and are experimenting with them to see which work best, and which have the best colour pallets.

I quickly touched base with Nathaniel at Feast of the Hare about the leather Herald's folder for the canton that he was looking for help with, but we didn't really have time to chat. I'll have to send him a note so we can scope out the project a bit more.