Thursday, 27 November 2014

Our Day at QPT (With Pictures)

In a small Kingdom like Ealdormere, there aren't a lot of events that draw close to 200 people. Trillium War does it, but that's a multi-day camping event in the middle of the summer. But in the winter (or at least close enough that there's always the threat of snow), and an event without any martial activities? It's pretty much unheard of.

And then there's QPT. An entire day with the entire focus on just geeking out about research and arts & sciences projects. The fact that 200 people showed up is just amazing.

On top of entering a project this year for QPT, I was also scheduled to be a judge for four different projects, so my day was much busier than last year.

My Project

Last year for QPT I entered my period leather dye project and got lots of great feedback and tips to get the recipes to work better. It ended up improving the project, which I entered into Kingdom A&S in the spring.

This year I entered my full mock-up of the stick-purse. This was a pretty big deal since I've been working on the research and engineering for a couple of years (the dye project actually stemmed from my desire to go whole-hog on the stick-purse, which meant figuring out how they would have coloured the leather in period).

The conversation with my judges was interesting because it didn't really follow the usual flow for these things where I talk about what I was trying to accomplish, etc. We just jumped straight into what the heck it was, how it was used and the different design considerations. It felt like a pretty in depth discussion with people who really knew their stuff, which was fun. We were talking about what the best approach would be for the back seam, whether the bottom seam was the right approach based on the picture, and best materials for the final pouch.

They also seemed to agree with me on my theory that coloured leather (in this case possibly on the drawstrings) could have been used as a way to tell what coins were in which pouch. I specifically demonstrated this by having four different currencies distributed in the four pouches. We had no way of telling what was in each bag without pulling the coins out (which seems clumsy for such an otherwise well thought-out item).

Overall I got the impression that they felt it was a pretty accurate reproduction using modern materials, with a few possible tweeks that could improve it, so the next step is to translate it into the final period purse while improving some of the elements that I'm not yet satisfied with. The final purse may be done for Spring A&S, but it will depend on where the event is being held as well.

It was also neat to have conversations with a number of other people who've been following my work on the stick-purse and were really excited to see some sort of tangible product finally. :) The stick-purse got lots of strange looks by people wandering by trying to figure it out, which was fun to watch.

Here are some pictures of the final mock-up. It's not the easiest item to take pictures of since its kind of busy, but it gives you an idea at least.


My Judging Experience

This was definitely new for me, as it was the first time I've volunteered to be a judge for anything like this. Frankly I never really felt like I had enough knowledge or skill in any area to really contribute much. I'm still not sure I do, but there were so many people entering I wanted to help out where I could. 

I had offered to judge entry level leatherworking projects, anything with leather dyes, as well as any juggling or tumbling entries (given my circus background). Sadly, there were no juggling entries but I did get assigned to judge a total of four leatherwork projects (although one of them pulled out on the day so I ended up with three sessions total).

Overall, I'm not sure how much I contributed to the conversation on most of the projects. I was judging with people who had far more experience and knowledge relevant to the items, and kind of trumped anything I might have had to add (not that it came across that way or was at all negative, it was just that I had so little knowledge to pass on in comparison that I was more in listening mode than anything). I did learn a lot about horse bridles and knife sheaths though, so it was certainly a valuable experience. I had a little bit I could share for Grom around dying the leather and the pictures we took while in Dublin of tooled leather knife sheaths, but that was about it.

The one project I feel like I actually added some value wasn't even on my original judging list, it was added closer to the event. The project was around experiments with dye-stuffs, including applying dyes to fibers, leather and wood. I had a good chat with Brendan about his project and was able to share some of my experiences with my research project from last year. I gave him a copy of my documentation so he could track down some of the recipe sources and do some experimenting as well. Hopefully he found it useful.

The Rest of the Day

Both Avelyn and Emelote entered items as well and it sounds like they had good conversations and input on their projects.

For QPT, sponsors bring prizes equal to the number of people they sponsored and then they each pick entrants that they would like to present with their items. That way each entrant gets something, usually from someone who was really impressed by their project (and who wasn't their sponsor).

In my case I received a really cool mortar and pestle, along with a box of dried spices from Mistress Aibhilin (which I'll totally be able to use for some upcoming cooking). You can see it in the middle of the picture below.

I was also called up into court at QPT and presented with an Award of the Orion, which is an arts and sciences award from the Kingdom. This was really cool on a number of fronts. First, obviously it means people are liking the work I'm doing. Yay me! :) It also means I have awards in all three of the main areas of the society (A&S, service and martial skills). I think this is really cool because it's not all that common to have people active in all three spheres (although my martial participation hasn't been great lately).

It was also really cool because of the crazy scroll I received for the award. Lady Augusta went totally over the top with the artwork. There's a frickin leather kraken appliqued to my scroll! How crazy is that? The kraken isn't just in the name of my blog, it's also the main charge in my SCA heraldry. We call him Steve. :) And the wording, which you can't really see in the picture below, is full of groan-inducing puns by my very own Lady wife Avelyn. I know they are groan inducing because the room was groaning as they laughed while it was read out in court.

There were, of course, lots of other highlights. We got lots of hugs from friends, were able to see Her Excellency Christiana put on vigil for the Order of the Pelican (WOOT), I got my apprenticeship pudding (don't ask, long story) and we were able to start giving out some of the gifts we brought back from the UK (although most of them are still in transit).

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

UK Trip Summary - Part 2 (with pictures)

Warning: This is another long post. :)

When last we left our intrepid adventurers they were leaving Oxford and heading to the Midlands to visit with Robert the Blue and Lerthan.


We had a great visit as we stayed with them for about four days. We spent lots of time talking about the differences between the SCA at home and in the UK, and some of the things we could do to improve how we run events and do feasts.

The highlight of the visit from a history perspective though had to be our stop at The Original Reenactor's Market (TORM). We had specifically timed out trip so that we could check out the market, as we'd heard about the really awesome recreation quality merchants that go there.

In a word, it was epic. We basically spent six hours there wandering through the merchants. We bought lots of gifts for other people back home, and some stuff for ourselves as well. I focussed on hardware like belt buckles, pouch frames etc. that are hard to find here at home. But we also got to meet some of the people I've been following on Facebook like NP Historical Shoes (yes, we got our measurements taken for future orders). I also got to chat with Peter Crossman, who helped me with my research into the stick-purse at the Mary Rose last year. We're just waiting for the packages to arrive since had too much stuff to bring back with us on the plane.

Avelyn had a lot of fun as well. One of her highlights was meeting the author of Medieval Tailor's Assistant, and having a lovely chat with her.

After our visit, we packed up on Remembrance Sunday and headed back towards London for our flight to Dublin the next day. On the way we made a stop in Northampton at the Museum of Leathercraft. This is a small museum that covers the entire history of leathercraft, but there were a couple of neat items for our period.

Late 16th C buff-leather
Early 16th C gunpowder flask
Since it was Remembrance Sunday, we also walked through the rest of the Museum complex, which included the local history museum. We saw lots of local history about everything from the American civil war up to WW II.

We arrived at our hotel in Windsor after everything was closed so we just went out for dinner and then settled in for the night. On the way to the airport in the morning we made a quick trip to Windsor Castle so Avelyn could check out St George's chapel. We also arrived right during the changing of the guard, which was a neat bit of pomp. :)

We then dropped off the car at Heathrow and hopped on our plane for Dublin.

Dublin - Day One

We arrived in Dublin late afternoon so by the time we bought our transit passes at the airport, caught the shuttle to our hotel and got into our room, all the touristy stuff was pretty much closed. So, we went for an amble through the Temple Bar district (which is basically the bar area), got some dinner and generally just wandered around before heading back to bed. Interesting tidbit though is that our hotel was literally right across the street from Christchurch Cathedral. Quite the view, and the bells on the hour were lovely.

The next day we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, and then hit Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library.

The library was very cool and very disappointing at the same time. The collection is amazing. It has one of the largest collections of Asian and Middle Eastern scrolls, books and artwork in the world. It's a treasure trove for SCA scribes, and they had a couple of dozen examples of really neat leather bound books with really intricate covers (including neat cut-work covers with brightly coloured sub-layers of paper underneath - might be my next project).

Unfortunately no pictures are allowed and the leather stuff I was interested in isn't captured in their online collection of pictures. I did buy a book that has a couple of the items but I'm going to have to contact the library to see what else they have. I was rather irked to say the least.

We then ran through the rain to get to the Dublin Castle so we could take the tour of the viking remains under the castle. Dublin dates back to the viking period and while there's very little left from that period, they discovered the remains of a viking river embankment under the foundation of the medieval castle. It was pretty cool to see.

Our tour guide with a illustration of what
the viking town would have looked like.
The pile of rocks on the middle is the
viking-age embankment. The round wall
is the base of one of the towers build
several hundred years later.

Dublin - Day Two

We had a lot to fit in for our last full day in Dublin, so we hit the road early and got out as soon as sites started to open. We first hit Christchurch Cathedral since it was right near the hotel. It was amazing. They've turned the crypts underneath the cathedral into a museum, so they have all kinds of really neat stuff down there (plus the crypts are just neat with their stonework dating back to the 11th and 12th century.

Original 12th C tiles at
Christchurch Cathedral
The crypts under the cathedral.

We then moved on to Trinity College to check out their collection, including the Book of Kells. Again, I wasn't able to take pictures in the main exhibit but WOW! (I also brought a notebook so was able to jot down lots of interesting stuff) The tiny scale of the illuminations in the books on display was just crazy. I can't imagine how they managed to do such tiny detail. There was also an interesting display on the inks and pigments used in the period.

The other interesting point was that the exhibit explained that both the Book of Kells and another book on display (the Book of Armaugh) had coloured leather covers (both were red). We're talking about 8th C books, which pre-dates my earliest leather dye recipes.

After drooling on all of the displays, we moved on to the National Museum of Ireland, where they have a major section on viking materials, along with a fair bit of medieval artefacts as well. It wasn't the most captivating display I've seen but they certainly had a lot of artefacts. I took hundreds of pictures, including leather, bone and metal items. They also had an interesting selection of farics from the viking age, so I did what I could to get pictures of the weaves.

A set of leatherworking tools.
Undated but on display in the viking section.
A weight (used with a set of scales)
with a rabbit on it - 13th to 15th C

We didn't leave until the museum was closing. The next morning we caught our plane back to London and connected to our return flight to Canada with lots of pictures and way more in our suitcases than we started with. :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

UK Trip Summary - Part 1 (With Pictures)

Warning: This will be a longer than normal post. :)

We've just returned from over two weeks in the UK, with stops around England and a couple of days in Dublin. There were lots of stops at museums to see all kinds of stuff, so I'm going to try to capture some of the most interesting things I saw, with pictures where possible. This is part one of the post. Part two will capture the second half of the trip, which includes the Reenactor's Market and Dublin, among other things.

Eventually I'll probably post my artifact pictures somewhere (possibly on Pinterest), so I'll add an update here with a link when the whole collection is available.


We'd hit a lot of the major museum stuff in London the last time we were there, but it's London so there's no shortage of things to do. :) The V&A was a bit of a bust because we went on the night they were open late but almost all of the medieval galleries were closed, so we didn't see much. I did get a picture for Her Excellency Catherine of a woven towel with pelicans on it. Otherwise a lot of our time was shopping and such.

Item #487-1884 - Towel dated 1400-1600
from the V&A

The highlight for London from a history/museum perspective was probably the British Library. The collection of documents on display is epic! Sadly, no pictures are allowed but the British Library has an extensive online photo archive of the collection so that's OK. Scribes should definitely check it out.


Portsmouth and the Mary Rose museum were on the agenda last time but we missed it because of a flat tire. As a result, we were really excited to go there for a couple of nights this time.

The Mary Rose museum is awesome and one of the best designed museums I've been to. They actually have the remains of the ship as the heart of the museum, and you can watch people working on preserving the ship. The museum is then setup parallel to the ship so you are walking through what would have been at that section of the ship as you walk the various levels.

Of course, for me the highlight was seeing the Purser's section, and the stick-purse. But there were tons of other leather items as well, ranging from jerkins, to shoes to arm guards and knife/sword sheaths. The collection is really huge and a goldmine of items.

The remains of the stick-purse at the
Mary Rose museum (item 81A0806)

We also did a tour of the HMS Victory, which was Admiral Nelson's flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar. It's post-period for the SCA but very cool none-the-less.

HMS Victory at the Historic Dockyard
in Portsmouth

Weald & Downland Museum

After Portsmouth we drove to an open air museum near Chichester. This is where they filmed a large part of the Tudor Monastery Farm series, so it's really cool because you see what the living conditions and layout of various buildings might have been.

Lots of really neat things here. We learned about a period fruit crop I'd never heard of before. It's called a medlar and is related to the quince (Here's a nice web site reference about the medlar). We also had a lovely conversation with one of the volunteers named Tina, who showed us where they make all of the period garb they wear (and they are really hardcore about the accuracy of the details of their outfits).
Some of the medieval buildings
Merchant's shop (left-hand
building from previous picture)
Early 17th century craftsman's cottage
Early 15th century home. This is
the main hall.
So many ideas about stuff we could do here. It's incredible seeing some of this stuff, especially if you've watched the Tudor Farm series.


Oxford was probably one of our favourite cities on the trip (although Portsmouth was up there too). We were only there for a day so we had to squeeze some stuff in. On Mistress Keja's recommendation, we made a stop at the Ashmolean Museum, which was really good. Lots of pics of artifacts were taken, and we just happened to be there on November 5th, which meant it was particularly cool to see the lantern used by Guy Fawkes. 

Guy Fawkes' lantern,
as seen on the 5th of Nov
The other really neat thing they had was a major collection of fabric samples from the Middle East and India, which I'm sure a lot of people will find interesting.
India from the 13th - 15th century
(Ashmolean EA 1990.146).
We also stopped at Oxford's science museum, where we saw some period clocks and timepieces. But the highlight for me there was Einstein's chalk board. It's just a chalk board, but still.......

At the end of the night we took a guided tour of the Bodelian Library, which dates to the late 16th century.It's massive and epic and no pictures are allowed. :( But totally worth the stop, especially since we were the only people on the tour so we basically had a private tour guide.

After Oxford we drove off into the Midlands for our next stop, visiting with Robert the Blue and Lerthan and our trip to the Reenactor's Market. I'll capture the second half of the trip in my next post.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Gift for Robert the Blue and Lerthan (With Picture)

I haven't posted much to the blog lately for a couple of reasons. One is that we were in the UK for a few weeks on a vacation/research trip, so you can expect another post shortly about that. The other reason is that I was working on some things that I didn't want certain people to know about. :) This is one of those things.

As part of the trip, we were staying for a few days with some friends who moved to England a couple of years ago. When they left I had just finished working on my Ealdormere award badge patterns, and RJ had talked about wanting some belt badges for his awards (he has a Maiden's Heart and a Scarlet Banner).

I figured since we'd be seeing them I should probably do up the badges finally, and that I needed to do the same for Lerthan as well. I haven't yet figured out the engineering I want for the belt loops but I figured if I brought the raw badges they could applique them or use them for something else as well.

Here's the picture of the sets of badges that I did up.

The best part is that little Maggie (who's not so little any more) apparently really liked that badges and wanted to know why she didn't get one. So, I've now been commissioned to do a badge for Maggie with a rainbow on it. :)