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.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Summer Siege Wrap Up - With Pictures

Running a bit behind with blog posts, its been a crazy few weeks getting stuff ready for multiple events.

Summer Siege, as always, was a busy event for me. It was also a Royal progress stop this year as we had a Laurel ceremony happening, so the attendance was significantly higher than usual.


Normally I'm running the rapier list since I'm the Canton's Rapier Marshal, but this year we tried a new format for the A&S activities and as Baronial A&S Minister I ran that instead. Gavin was kind enough to volunteer to run Rapier, and while we didn't have the record number of fencers we had last year, it looked like a pretty good turn-out and folks seemed to have fun.

Normally in the past for the event I have borrowed the Caldrithig armoured combat list poles from His Excellency Shahid, but they are rather large and heavy, and really overkill for rapier. So this year, Avelyn and I worked to make a new set of list poles, based on the ones Jocelyn loaned me last year for the Althing. We even got a bit of power tool help from Avelyn's dad, since our little hand drill was rather under-powered for the job.

The best part of them is that instead of taking up half the back of our truck, I can disassemble them and they fit into a duffel bag. They're super light weight.

Here are a couple of pictures of them in action. We'll call them the prototype, since there are some things I may want to adjust, but they seemed to work OK for their maiden event.


A lot of the work for the A&S activity was before the event, coordinating judges and entries etc. What I was hoping for was a chance for local artisans to get some feedback on projects. I had a good host of people volunteer to judge, which was really great. Unfortunately a number of people who had planned to enter items weren't in the end able to make the event. We did have one lovely embroidery entry and she seemed to get some good feedback so that's good. Hopefully it will continue to grow in the next few years.

Thrown Weapons

Their Excellencies have been using Summer Siege to run both their thrown weapon's and archery champions tourneys in recent years, as its one of the few venues that lends itself to those activities in the Barony. Last year I managed to win the Thrown Weapons tourney with what was easily my best ever day on the range. The chances of me doing as well again this year were slim, but I entered again this year to defend my title, or at least make sure that I gave the winner a run for their money. :)

During the tourney I knew I didn't throw as well as the previous year, but I hit a good number of throws from 10 ft, but not much from 20 ft, so I knew it would be tight.

In court I was called up to step down as champion, where I surprised Their Excellencies with a new axe and heraldic axe cover for the champion (I did the same when I stepped down as Rapier Champion, so now it's twice, so its a tradition!). Eluned picked up the axe for me at Pennsic and I made the cover based on my existing axes.

Here's a picture of me returning the tabbard and presenting the axe.

and here are some close ups of the axe and cover:

So I bow my way out of court, go back to the audience and resume taking pictures. They call up the Marshal, who starts calling out the top three, and low and behold, they call me up as the winner and Their Excellencies get to give me back all the regalia once again. I think They enjoyed the joke of handing me back the axe after I just presented it. :)

Other things of note:

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Laurel elevation in more detail. THL Alais (now Mistress Alais) focuses a lot of her research on shepherdesses and peasant practices. Her elevation was really unique as they modeled it after a Flemish village wedding ceremony, including using dances as part of the ceremony. It was really neat, and totally suited the event. I'm glad the weather was nice (if hot) and that everything seemed to go well.

I had been asked to be their "official" photographer for the elevation so I tried to make sure I got lots of pictures while I was hopping between activities. I was also able to do a family photo for her after the ceremony, which is always a nice keepsake.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A leather guy's notes for doing fabric shopping in Montreal

About a week ago, Avelyn, Emelote and I planned a quick day trip to Montreal to look for some good fabric for SCA garb. In particular we were looking for linen or wool fabric in appropriate colours (particularly blues and yellows) that looked at least close to what would be producible using period natural dyes. Avelyn and I consulted the weekend before with Mistress Siglinde Harfnerstochter, who was able to give us lots of good advice and show us some books and actual dyed wool and linen samples so we'd have an idea of what the right colours might be. I'd also asked around to get ideas of where people normally go for their wool fabric, so that was a bit of a starting point.

The beauty is that within the garment district in Montreal, there's a huge concentration of fabric stores in a very small stretch of Rue St. Hubert. I counted about a dozen stores within about four blocks, although some of them are more upholstery fabric than garment fabric. Within about four and a half hours we were able to hit about 8 stores and we did find what we were looking for.

We went on a Saturday, so most of the stores closed around 5-ish with a few earlier closures. There was lots of street parking, with pay machines so parking was about $1 per hour, with a max of three hours (but you can go back and get a new ticket from the machine no problem). We found it easiest to just park in one spot and walk back and forth since everything was so close.

One thing we found with many of the stores is that labeling the bolts was not even a thing. Very few of them even had prices labelled, never mind fibre content. I was glad we brought Emelote along because I certainly wouldn't have known the difference between fabrics. It pays to brush up on your haggle skills because some of the sellers seemed open to bargaining or offering a "deal", especially if larger amounts were being purchased.

Avelyn suggested I do this post so I can pass on some of the tips and tricks we learned while planning and doing our shopping trip. Hopefully this will be helpful to people interested in doing some SCA fabric shopping in Montreal in the future. About 98% of this post is unrelated to leather (I did stop at one store that had dye supplies, so if you're only interested in my leather dye project I'll put that store last on the list if you want to skip ahead).

So, below I will make some comments and observations about each of the stores we visited, in hopes it will help anyone looking to do some fabric shopping in the future.

The stores:

A C Textiles

7390 Rue St-Hubert

When I asked around to our local experts, Dame Helen of Greyfells suggested this store. I can see why, this was a favourite stop of the trip. The owners were super helpful without being pushy (and gave us some really good prices too). They had a really awesome selection of 100% wools - including Cashmere. When we were there (not sure if the inventory moves around within the store) the wools were on the left hand wall when you come through the door. The linens were  on the right hand wall just past the cash, and the silks (mostly prints) were behind the cash.

The one thing is they don't have a set inventory, so what’s there is what’s available, and next time it'll probably be all different. That being said, their prices were super reasonable compared to both the other stores we went to and ordering online (most of the wools we bought were in the $17- $25 per meter range for really high quality), so we ended buying a fair bit of stuff that wasn't the blue or yellow we were there to find. Their linen and silk selection in period appropriate colours and patterns weren't great but that could be the time of year, since we went in August the wools were probably more seasonal than the lighter fabrics. They had some nice twill-weave wool that we snapped up too.

We went back at the end of our tour and bought more from them because their stuff was what we liked the best, and the price was right.

C&M Textiles

7500 Rue St-Hubert

C&M has locations in Montreal and Ottawa (Merivale Road, in the Emerald Plaza), so Avelyn stopped in at the Ottawa location before we went to check it out. They had a good selection of wool and linen but the prices were way more than we were looking to pay and colours were OK but not exactly what we were looking for.

We did stop in at the Montreal location to check it out. I think the selection was pretty similar in the fabrics we were looking for, fair bit of suiting wool and some linen, but nothing super exciting from a colour perspective. The prices were much more reasonable though, so they must adjust their pricing because of the level of competition in the area (about $10/m less than the Ottawa store was charging for the same wool). So if you're looking at buying a fair bit from C&M, it may be worth going to Montreal at that price difference.

Note they primarily sell décor fabrics so you have to look around in the shop to get to the apparel fabrics.

Tissus Marina

7515 rue Saint-Hubert

They had a small linen section in the middle of the store, nothing to write home about. Mostly just your basic colours - natural, white, black and I think navy blue. The wool section was towards the back of the store and had some nice stuff but nothing in the colours I was looking for - mostly the same basic colours as the linen. They did have really big bolts though so for volume buying I bet it would be a good spot.

Pricing was in the mid-range, probably about the same as some of the online places I've seen (so in the $20-$40 price range for the wool.

Tissues St-Hubert

7399 rue Saint-Hubert

The review I saw about this store was that they were expensive, and I can see that because it's pretty high end stuff. They had a pretty good selection of wools, although most of them were the suiting wools, or weren't the right colours for our period use. I think if we hadn't found something that worked really well elsewhere we might have gone back here for some of it because they had some yellow that looked close, but in the end we didn't buy anything here.

According to the sales guy, a lot of their wool was still in the basement because they hadn't had a chance to clear shelf space for their fall materials yet, so it's possible if we'd come back in a week or two the wools would have been better.

The sales guy was very eager, to the point where he was kind of pushy. I do give him credit though, he's the only place that had a lighter and did a burn test on a piece of fabric to show us it was indeed 100% wool.


7381 Rue St-Hubert,

Fairly big trim store with all kinds of interesting stuff. Unfortunately they didn't have much in the way of woven trims, but they do carry a lot of the bands of trim with metallic stitch-work that you see a lot of people using for generic utility garb.

They also had trim with embedded "jewels" and jeweled applique pieces that might work for some later period stuff. I know Avelyn and Emelote thought it was neat, just not what we were looking for on this particular trip.

Avelyn’s note: If you’re sensitive to fragrances be wary of going in this shop.

Textile Couture Elle  

7361 Rue St-Hubert

They had lots of wool selection for sure in all kinds of colours and patterns, including some lightweight suiting that would have worked in a pinch (although still not quite right). It's a pretty small store but they sure do pack it tightly. The heavier wools seemed to be along the left hand wall as you come in the door, and the lightweight wool suiting was around the corner near the front window.

Avelyn bought some nice veil weight 50-linen/50-silk fabric here. They also had lovely fine, pure silks in various degrees of sheerness that she was coveting. $25-30/m.

Prices seemed reasonable, probably in the middle for the stores we saw. The staff seemed helpful, pulling things out and down of the shelves as needed so we could take a closer look.

Goodman Carlyle 

7282 Rue St-Hubert

The review said this place had a huge wool section, and boy do they ever. Massive amounts of wool, shelves and shelves of it. It was actually fairly overwhelming. It was a pretty big jumble, so you just had to walk through everything and look. They had a bit that could have worked but they didn't have enough left on the bolt. They had some interesting herringbone and twill patterns too, but not what we were looking for and nothing that we linked more than the stuff we saw at A.C. Textiles.

They only had a few linen bolts and nothing in colours that would have worked unfortunately.

It's too bad this store didn't work out because they had a 40% off sale so it would have been nice if they'd had something.

Sam Textiles

7195 Rue Saint-Hubert

Alright, so this is where we ended up buying the specific fabric we were looking for. If you go to the back of the store, on the right hand side they have a section of really lovely high end Italian 100% linen in a bunch of colours. Both the blue and the yellow looked pretty close to what Mistress Siglinde showed us. At the back of the store on the left they also had a few shelves of wools, and again they had the right blue and yellow in wool as well.

So, we bought a bunch of stuff here but it certainly wasn't because of the friendliness of the staff or the prices.

So some tips in this store: Don't, whatever you do, remove a bolt of fabric from the shelf. You are not allowed to touch the cloth because they worry about the way the shelves are organized. I got told off because I took a bolt down so I could hold it up to another bolt to see how the colours would look together, and then I got a lecture. (Avelyn says she did it though and didn’t get caught…)

Price wise, the linen was really high quality but it was also more than I had wanted to pay. But the colours were bang on and the weave is really fine, so its way nicer than the stuff we could have ordered at For day-to-day garb I'd probably just go with ordering from Fabrics-store, but if you wanted to splurge on some really nice fabric for court garb or a special occasion, and don't mind paying extra for the quality, this would be a good place to check.

Just don't touch anything without someone helping you. If I'd found anything close at any of the other stores I would have gone somewhere else without a second thought, but I guess them's-the-breaks when you're looking for something really specific.

Kama Pigments

7442 Rue Saint-Hubert

This place is not a fabric store at all but I wanted to stop in since its in the same part of the street and looked like they might carry some of my dye pigments.

Most of the store is focused on painters and other artists. But they have one long shelf with fabric dyes and chemicals/ingredients used by dyers, including some traditional dye stuffs like cochineal, madder etc. Not as much of a selection as my usual supplier in (Maiwa Supply in BC), but they did carry gum Arabic in powder form, which up until now I've only found in the US. They also sold black walnut extract, so I bought a small package of that to see if it will make a black walnut dye without the mess of having to handle the nuts themselves.

Definitely will be adding it to my list of suppliers, and the store has a neat feel to it too.


So overall I'd say the trip was successful and that we eventually found what we were looking for. I definitely think it was worth spending the day in Montreal, rather than ordering wool online - we found stuff that was in most cases much more accurate to natural dyes that would have been used in period, and the prices (when you factor in shipping costs plus the low Canadian $), means we probably saved some money too.

I think the best bet is to go not when you're looking for a specific project (although we did end up finding what we wanted), but just to see what they have and to gradually add to your stock for future projects. If you have a very specific colour or fabric style in mind, it's much harder since a lot of these stores have variable inventory. Because of that, if you find the perfect fabric make sure you snag it because there's no guarantee it will be there the next time you go.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Trillium War notes

*****Oops, wrote this last week but forgot to post it. Bad blogger. :) *****

It's been a busy week so I'm a bit behind in my updates. Trillies was pretty busy but here are some thoughts.


Didn't really get all that much done on Thursday since that's the day we arrived. We setup our presence with Fettered Fleur, who let us crash our day-visit setup with them, and got our banners all setup. There was a bit of a scramble because I left our portable hole in the garage at home when I was packing the car. Fortunately there were some available at a couple of blacksmith merchants on site so we now have several. After that and a quick dinner snack, I was off to the rapier list for inspection and the torch tourney.


Friday morning was the start of my main class I was signed up for, Mistress Lucrece's leather bottle-making class. We spent most of the morning learning about the historical context of the bottles, design types and then trying our hand at making our own. I got to do my first wet forming of leather, and picked up a few neat tricks to improve my overall leatherworking techniques. It was an ambitious schedule, so I wasn't able to get done my bottle during the class, but I have everything I need to finish it up at home when I have time.

Right afterwards, I taught my first of two classes at Trillies. We had a full class of six people (Yay). We scheduled my Intro to Leatherwork class on Friday so that people would have some time to finish their pouches in camp if they didn't finish during the class, but I think almost everyone got pretty much done during the two hours, which is really great.

I like the format of this class because its kind of free-form. Over the course of the two hours I do a bit of an intro and then everyone spends about an hour and a half sewing their leather while I basically do a show and tell about leather tools and leather. Because I pre-cut and pre-punch the holes, we can chat and discuss all kinds of things while they work, so they end up hopefully picking up a lot more basics than they would otherwise.

I got some great comments during the class, and I'm told some of the students were really excited about it when they got back to their camps, which is cool to hear.


I had a couple of classes I was going to take on Saturday morning but I ended up not going for a couple of reasons. Aethelbert was doing a neat class on how he makes shoes, covering last making, stitching with boar bristles etc. It would have been neat but it was first thing in the morning and being off site, we just couldn't make it.

I was also originally signed up for a knife sheath class that Henry was teaching right afterwards, but I released my spot because there were a lot of newer people on the waiting list, and I figured they would get more out of it than I would. I was able to pop in and see his home-made bone leather stamps in action though, which was cool.

Right afterwards I taught my second class of the event, my discussion about period leather dyes. Its a bit more of a specialized class, so we only ended up with two people. Otherwise I think it went fairly well. I haven't taught it lately so I felt a bit disorganized in my thoughts, but I got all of the information out. The main goal is really to give people the basic tools to be able to select leather colours that look right, even if they don't want to experiment with making their own dyes. We also talked a fair bit about how the leather dyes compare to period fabric dyes, since at least one of the ladies had some experience with natural fabric dyes.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon at Mistress Lucrece's camp, where she was showing us how she finishes the bottles to make them water-tight using pitch and bees wax. This was her first time trying this on a camp stove setup, so there was some experimenting involved. There was much less swearing and crying than was advertised since it actually worked pretty well.

Other general stuff:

Since I was essentially in the A&S tents for most of the event, I didn't do any thrown weapons or rapier (other than the torch tourney on Thursday). I also didn't even break my camera out until court on Saturday.

During court, we got to hear the scroll text Avelyn and I wrote for Mistress Kersteken get read out when she was presented with her Hare Valiant, seemed to go over well.

I was kindly requested by Her Excellency Catherine to stick around to take pictures of the Skrael fighters at the Rose Tourney, which followed after court. I'm pretty sure this was a RUSE though (sneaky Baroness is sneaky), because the plotting had begun to make sure certain people were there to witness my Laurel, Mistress AElfwyn, being put on vigil for the Order of the Chivalry. Woot Woot!!!!!! There was a lot of cheering. :)

So I got lots of great pictures of this fine event and some pictures of the subsequent fighting before we had to go pack up our presence (we wanted ot get it packed before dark). We hung around the rest of the night visiting, going to the awesome bardic circle and otherwise doing the SCA camping thing, and then went back to our hotel for a good night sleep before driving home on Sunday.

The classes have really become a much bigger part of Trillies in recent years, which is great to see but also puts a lot more time demands on me since I spread myself pretty thin across different SCA activities. But we are an educational organization after all, so lets edumacate people when we can. ;)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Banner making for Trillium War (with pictures)

Yes, I know this is a leatherworking blog and silk banners have nothing to do with leather. But I'm still posting it here because we've been wanting to make some silk banners for a while now, and we finally got around to doing it heading into Trillium War this past weekend.

But don't worry, I have a Trillies update coming too and that'll be largely about leatherwork, and I have a huge slate of projects on the go so there will be a number of project updates coming over the next two months.

So, to the banners.

Avelyn and I had previously purchased all of the supplies to make silk banners, but we didn't have the frames. We'd bought some copper pipes to make the frames but didn't necessarily have pieces short enough for small banners, so the week before Trillies we went out and bought a some more pieces. So we're now fully stocked (we also ordered some more brushes and such that we picked up at Trillies from HE Percival, so we're now setup to be Talfryn's eastern banner making hub). :)

So the first attempt at a banner was one we did jointly, with both of our main heraldic charges (I'm the kraken, she's the comet). We did the banner quartered and then did a purple and white border around the edges. I used a pre-hemmed silk scarf from our supplies, which made it a bit easier to work with.

You'll notice in the pictures below its a bit faded, that's because of a flaw in the instructions we got with our dye supplies. They were great up until the end, where it said to fix the dye and gutta using an iron, and then wash it out. What it didn't say is to wait 3-4 days before you wash it, to let the dye set. We only found that out when we went to the manufacturer's web site and read their instructions afterwards. 

As a result, the colours are faded and the black gutta didn't leave black lines like we expected. Lesson learned - in consultation with others it seems like they don't even bother washing it afterwards so we know better now.

You'll also see the lovely banner stand topper that we got. It was an awesome birthday gift from Their Excellencies Eleanor and Menken. I'm super please, it works like a charm and the artwork is fabulous!!! 

After the first quasi success (I admit there was a lot of swearing after the black lines washed out, and many emails and Facebook messages to try to figure out what happened), I decided I wanted to do another one. I thought it would be nice to have a small kraken sign to put up outside my classrooms at Trillies since I'd be teaching two classes (more to come in my next post on that). So I used a narrow pre-hemmed scarf to make a small personal banner that could hang from some of the modern garden stands that we have. This one I think turned out really well! Need to improve my painting technique a bit to avoid the overlap areas on the big stretches (I'm told its because the dye was drying faster than I was painting)..

But of course it wouldn't be fair to just do one for myself, so after I got mine done, I started on one for Avelyn. Thankfully I booked the week off to prep for Trillies so I could do it during the day, given the time it took to do the gutta lines. Hers is rather complicated. Here's the picture of the black lines without dye.

And here it is with the dye. I think it looks super sexy, the purple and white lozengy really pops. I might go with a different colour border next time, not sure about the yellow and black, but we didn't want purple because we thought it would be too busy given the complexity of the lozengy. We also made the bars in the border longer than in mine by about double so it would be less busy.

And here they are side by side on our modern stand (its actually a target shooting stand, but it collapses and is just the right size for these. We put little wooden dowels in the bottom to help wight it down a bit in the breeze, not sure that was super successful, they kept falling out. May need to rethink that.

Next up, I'm hoping to do a full 5-6 ft long standard for each of us. Hopefully in time for Summer Siege if I can get the rest of my projects going. My gutta line drawing could still improve, fewer blotches and blobs would be nice, but overall I think I'm getting the knack for these things.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Planning for Trillium War

We're less than a month from Trillium War and things are starting to firm up. Looks like this year at war I'm going to be spending most of my time on A&S activities, rather than rapier or thrown weapons. I'll still be doing some rapier marshaling, and I'll make sure I throw in some of the tournaments since I'm the Baronial champion, but I can see me spending most of my time at the A&S tents.

I've confirmed I'll be teaching two classes this year, both of which I've taught a few times before. On Friday I'll be teaching my Intro to Leatherworking, which is basically making a small basic belt pouch as a way to learn some basics of leatherwork. I go over types of leather, stitches etc, and then we spend some time assembling a pouch.

The second class is my leather dye class, which I taught at Practicum, and at Trillies last year as well. It was specifically requested that I teach it again this year as some people missed it previously. It's more of a roundtable where we discuss what colours were achievable in period, the period leather dye sources, my experiments to get the recipes to work, and people can see the finished projects and test swatches of dyes. Aside from learning the dye process, the real goal is to show people what colours are appropriate in leather items so they can choose their leathers and modern dyes accordingly.

I'm mostly prepped for both classes, so that's good. I had some kits left over from last time I taught the intro to leatherwork class, and went to pick up some more leather at Zeli's on the weekend so I can make a few more. All the leather got cut out and pre-punched last night so all that's left is printing out the hand outs and throwing  them in the bags. There's nothing really extra needed for the leather dye class other than making sure I have copies of the hand outs.

There are also a handful of classes I'm going to want to take as well, so lots to do and see this year.

We also have some things we would like to do before Trillies. For one, we'd like to finally get some banners done up (either silk or some painted ones, just to have something to jazz up our site). We're staying in a hotel, so we won't have a full camp, but some heraldry to mark us out would be nice. Fortunately we have all the supplies for doing both silk and fabric banners in the basement, so last night we spent a bit of time plotting out what we want to do. I'm hopeful to have at least a small banner or standard done up by the end of the month.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Kingdom Award Badges - Round 2 (With Pictures)

This weekend I kept chugging along with my work on developing cutwork patterns for our Kingdom award badges. I'm now moving on to a few of the slightly more complicated badges which require a bit of a different technique.

First up, the Thorbjorn's Hammer badge.

The pattern for this badge is actually fairly simple, but it has a couple of aspects that add an element of complication to the mix. Both are elements I'll need to master as there's lots of evidence these techniques were used for the cutwork book covers, so I may as well get working at it.

So the main difference between this and the previous two badges is that the main charge on the badge, the hammer itself, is actually a floating element. So, unlike the other badges where it was just a matter of cutting out a pattern, for this one I actually had to cut out the hammer as a stand alone element and then paste it separately.

The other slightly different element is that the hammer needs a bit of tooling on it so that the handle has the right 3-D feel to it. So I had to do small tooling on a cut-out pattern before it got stuck to the badge.

Here's a picture of the pieces cut out:

And then of course after they are painted (with fabric underneath to get the right contrast):

Next up is the Orion badge. It has similar elements, with the ring on the outside and a floating main charge in the middle. The main issue with this one is the harp because I have to cut out the harp strings, which will give me a bit of practice on really small cutwork shapes.

Here are the pieces cut out and painted.

I have two different purple fabric colours so I tested it with both. I ended up going with the darker colour on the left because it's more herladic, although I think I need to find some different fabric that's something in between the two for future badges.

Aaaaaaand, here are the two finished badges trimmed and mounted on a belt loop.

I actually think the Hammer badge is my favourite so far. Really happy with how it turned out. I think folks will really like wearing something like this (particularly if I can shrink it down so its a bit less cumbersome).

I think the Orion still needs some work. I'd like to get the strings straighter, and next time I think I'll use purple to do the outer ring instead of black, it makes the overall badge too dark right now. Plus, I think I'd try to find some lighter fabric for the purple.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Kingdom Award Badges - New and Improved with Cutwork/Filigree (with pictures)

As you'll have seen from my most recent post, I'm starting the process of working on developing some new leatherwork skills with the end goal of recreating 15th century (ish) Islamic filigree book covers. There's lots to do, but I thought I'd get started by working on my cutwork/filigree skills.

When I'm working on this kind of skill development, I prefer to do it by doing something useful, rather than just wasting leather doing samples. So I thought about my project from several years ago, where I developed tooling patterns for the various award badges. So I'm upgrading my award badges to version 2.0 - now with cutwork.

Much like with the tooling versions, I started out with the easiest one first - the Maiden's Heart. It's a fairly straightforward pattern with large areas of colour. I then moved on to the Order of the Wain, again because it has a fairly straightforward colour pattern that lends itself well to cutwork.

I started out by marking the line pattern onto a wet round of leather, the same as I would for tooling. However, instead of using the swivle knife next, I actually cut out pieces of leather to create blank areas in the pattern. In the case of the Maiden's Heart, I cut out anywhere that should be blue on the pattern, while in the case of the Order of the Wain badge, I cut out the white areas.

Here's an example, using the Maiden's Heart:

The original book covers have a layer of paper or silk under the cutwork leather to have the colour that shows through. I didn't want to use paper since these could get wet, and I didn't have the right colour of silk so I went with cotton for the purposes of the badge.

Here it is over the blue cotton fabric (although looks a bit closer to purple in the light of my work desk in the basement):

Then of course I have to paint the alternating colour on the leather. That's also a period practice, lots of examples of painted leather on tooled artefacts. Many of the books have either dyed leather or colour accents applied to the surface of the leather (often goldwork). 

Here's the Wain badge at the painted stage:

I cut the fabric in a round to match the shape of the leather and paste it down onto a round blank piece of leather the same shape and size as the top. I then paste the cutwork piece on top so that the fabric is sandwiched between. I also cut out a strip of leather about an inch wide and the length of the circle to form the belt loop at the back. I then punch the holes around the edge of the circle and sew it all together using some light leather as trim (since otherwise the edges of the circle would be pretty messy.

Here's a picture of the two completed badges (with a ruler as per Her Excellency Lucia's request to see the scale of the item).

So a pretty good start. They are much quicker to make this way than with the leather tooling so that's a big advantage. They do use a bit more leather though, so there's a bit of a cost trade-off for time.

I plan to experiment some more with the other badges since they'll require a bit more thought about how to do the patterns with the cutwork. I'm also thinking of scaling down the pattern so I can do the badges smaller. That wasn't feasible using the tooling techniques because my skills just weren't there (at least with the more complicated badges), but at least for these two I could probably drop the size by half and still be doable using the cutwork. It might make the badges more wearable for people, as right now they are a bit big (for my preference at least).

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Planning the next project - Islamic filigree book covers

For those who've been following the saga of the stick purse/leather dyes over the years, you'll know I tend to pick major projects that will take me several years to complete. That's largely because they usually require me to learn new skills along the way. Since the stick-purse is nominally done (I say nominally since I plan to keep fiddling with the dyes as a background activity), I need a long-term new project.

I'm now officially at the starting line to start what I am dubbing "The crazy, what the heck are you thinking, Islamic filigree book cover project" (Trademark pending). I'll call it the CFP for short (Crazy Filigree Project).

I've contacted the Curator for the Islamic collection at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, where I first saw these crazy books. She's shared with me a paper she wrote on how they were done, along with some really close up pictures of some examples. While the pictures are super helpful, they've also showed me that this project is even tougher than I thought. Not only did they do cut-work/filigree patterns in the leather that are typically ornate for the illumination of that period, but there's leather tooling on the leather, in spaces that are only a few millimeters wide. I have no idea how they managed it, but its scary fine detail.

Here's an example from another source. This is a book from the 15th century. The area that's blue has actually been cut out of the leather and is showing the silk or paper that was placed underneath. The red lines that swirl through the blue is the leather lacework pattern that's left behind from the cutwork.

So, lots to do:
  • Research more on period Islamic/Persian book styles
  • Acquire both bookbinding equipment/supplies and knowledge
  • Work on my filigree and bookbinding skills
  • Develop filigree pattern for the cover(s)
  • Fail several times, probably by cutting the filigree wrong, or slipping with the knife and cutting off chunks of filigree
  • Swear a lot
  • Figure out if I want to add to the complexity by using my period dyes (I'd put money on yes cause I'm that kind of crazy)
I'l probably need to work on this in stages, like I did for the stick-purse and dyes, so several rounds of entries at QPT before the final thing is entered at Kingdom A&S.

I think for this year my goal will be to do the background research, and to work on my bookbinding skills. So for this fall's QPT, I'll try to make my first complete leatherbound book, which I can enter and get advice.

If I'm really productive I might be able to do some sample filigree work on a flat piece of leather, maybe as a scroll blank or something. I'm not going to try to get to that small a scale for my first attempts, but it's a cool enough technique that I bet some people would love it, especially Middle Eastern personas.

The other thing I could do is develop another round of badge patterns but using cutwork instead of standard leather tooling. I bet those would look sharp.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Thoughts about Future Kingdom A&S Entries (Part 2)

Here's part two of my post about Kingdom A&S. This one's just about what I've learned about why I enter Kingdom A&S and what I'm looking for in the process. I'm posting it because I figure I can't be the only one with these feelings and so hopefully it will help other people work their way through it. Happy to discuss here or on Facebook or even in person.

If you read part one of this post, you might ask if it was such a good day, the caliber of entries was high and my project went over well, why wasn't I jazzed following the event. That's an excellent questions.

Here's what I've figured out, and where I'm going from here.

As an A&S Minister I was super excited to see people geeking out about their work and being able to show people what they can do. And I can safely say that my feeling off had nothing to do with any expectations personally about prizes or awards because the feeling started pretty much as soon as I was done my judging. Hopefully it didn't overflow into the discussions I was having with other people, I tried really hard to be encouraging and to provide good comments.

I don't enter these things to win prizes (good thing too since I'm just not at that level compared to some of the really awesome artisans in the Kingdom. In the past, I've entered experimental projects like the leather dyes and the stick-purse, which have generated really good discussions and those have been the ones that I've been really excited about.

So after thinking about it for a while, here's what I came up with: I need to be more selective about what I enter into QPT and Kingdom A&S type events.

1) This year I felt like I SHOULD enter since the event was in our barony and I'm the Baronial A&S Minister, so I put together a project because of that, rather than because I was super excited by the research. I thought I came up with an interesting concept by recreating my original project from five years ago, but it still wasn't the same caliber as my previous two projects from a research perspective. The bottom line is it felt more like I was just showing what I had already learned, rather than actually learning anything new.

2) I think the other thing I've noticed is that people at A&S tend to gravitate towards stuff they know. I do it too. I may look at the fibre arts or illumination projects and say "oooo, that's impressive", but I'm unlikely to stop and have an in-depth discussion with the artisan because it's not something I know. I know enough to tell between an advanced effort and a beginner effort, but that's about it. Same thing goes for leather projects. There just aren't as many people interested in leatherwork in Ealdormere as most other arts, and so I don't find many people stop by to chat (unless its something so obviously awesome like Lucrece's book that everyone wants to see it). They see shoes or a purse and can appreciate the aesthetic from the perspective that we all need accessories to go with our garb, but the geeking out doesn't seem to happen as much and I think that's where I get my fun out of the event.


Given the above, here's what I think I've decided:

1) At least for A&S (QPT may be different), I think I'm going to try to avoid both entering and judging at the same event. I think judging entries on the day tied up so much time I wasn't able to be around to chat about my project with people, and since that's where I seem to get my energy from I think that its important to dedicate some time to that on the day. Given the following points that probably means I'll be entering fewer projects and judging more often at this point. I think that's OK.

2) When I'm deciding to enter a project, it needs to be something I'm going to learn something new out of. So that means either I start entering beginner projects in other areas, or enter different kinds of leather projects. That also means I need to work in advance much more than I did this year, since its going to involve more hard core research and skills development.

3) If I'm entering leather items, they need to be projects that add to the collective knowledge base like the stick-purse and the dyes, rather than just showing off what I can do. I also think these types of projects cross the boundaries better so more people will find them interesting, rather than just people who do leatherworking.

4) Tied to point #2, I need to take advantage of QPT like I did with the stick-purse and leather dyes. Use the full A&S cycle by entering mock-ups at QPT and final projects at A&S, incorporating the input I received.
So, thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Do you have a different perspective? Readers here have been seeing my various projects for years. You see what I get super excited about. Does this sound right, or am I thinking about it wrong?

Monday, 28 March 2016

Kingdom A&S - Thoughts on the Day (Part 1)

I started typing this as one big long post and it was just way too long. So, part one will be just about the day and then I'll move my thinky thoughts to part two.

Kingdom A&S was a really busy day, with entering my girdle purse and judging two other projects. Avelyn was in the kitchen most of the day helping Emelote and John with feast prep so I didn't really see her all day except for occasional runs to the car to bring stuff in for them.

When I wasn't being all judgmental or being judged in turn, I was running around taking pictures. I always feel a certain responsibility for it at local events, but especially when Erik or Alex aren't at the event. I'm the third stringer but I think having pictures is important.

I came away from the event decidedly not super jazzed up, which is unusual. Normally after QPT or A&S I leave feeling all eager to work on new projects and do stuff. This time that wasn't the case. That's why this post is a week after the event - I've been analysing my mind-set to try to figure out what's off. I'll talk about that in part two of this post.

Event Overall
My initial observation was that the caliber of projects overall was really high. When I compare to my first A&S experience (which was really what I was doing all day) I think people have been really stepping up their game.

HE Lucia tried a couple of new things this year, and it will be interesting to see what lessons learned come out of it. First, there were no categories or levels (beginner/intermediate/advanced) for projects like in previous years. That meant everything was judged on the same basic criteria. There were then sponsored prizes for different things, rather than winners of each category. The sponsor set the criteria for the prize and handed them out during the day so it didn't bog down court. I honestly didn't hear a lot of discussion about the change at the event, so I'm not sure how it went over or if there were glitches as a result. It's interesting though because you had prizes for very specific things (best 16th century thing or best thing made from or bearing the image of a sheep), so the mix of prizes was definitely different.

She also introduced an online system for judging forms, which I think got mixed results. In my case it worked fine once I figured out that the wifi signal was too weak in the basement and moved back upstairs. Based on discussions I heard on the day, some people loved it, but I did hear some grumbling. I think some people found it a challenge to find time to fill out the online forms when they were judging upwards of 5-6 projects over the course of the day (and its hard to type extensive comments on a little phone keyboard for many - I brought my bluetooth keyboard and tablet so had an easier time of it).

I also was able to get on the Vigil list early for Marguerite so got in right away. I had made a gift for her and didn't want to be lugging it around all day. :) I bought a bunch of glass jars, and Avelyn did up a bunch of fancy labels for me. We filled them with all of my key leather dying pigments and supplies. My favourite was the jar of rusting metal! I put it all in a basket along with a bunch of leather pieces and bound it all up with some garters/buckled leather straps. The trick is she's only allowed to use them to experiment with leather dying (I had to put the qualifier in because they are mostly the same pigments she uses for her "alchemy"). I gave it the title "Things to help the newly sprouted Laurel to continue to grow". :)

I couldn't get a clean picture of the contents of the basket since it kept closing but here's the basket itself:

Projects I Judged
I was tagged with judging two projects this year. In all there were only four projects related to leather (including mine) so I basically was judging two-thirds of the available projects (the third project was Lucrece's book and was so far beyond my skill level there would have been no point).

Both of the projects were impressive in their own way.

The first project was a pair of early-period shoes (as well as a set of wooden lasts used to make the shoes). Shoes or finicky things to make in the first place, throwing in making a set of wooden lasts on top of it was really neat.

Here's a picture:

Given the hard time I had in sizing the pair of shoes I attempted, the fact that they seem to fit is really great. It'll be interesting to see if they settle in when he's wearing them or if the seams cause any issues.

The second project was an experimental project to re-purpose an old sheepskin coat into three-fingered mitts. In the end the project didn't end up working out, but we think that may be because of the materials, rather than any fault of the artisan. Certainly the research and conjectural concepts were sound. This was only the second time she'd worked with leather so I'm really pleased at the work she was able to do and she's definitely on the right track!

Here's a picture:

My Project
I've already posted pictures of my finished project on the blog, so I won't get into the details of the purse too much here. After I did my spiel on the day about what I did, why I did it etc, the conversation with the judges kind-of went into the related area of period leather dyes and whether the recipes in the Plictho are accurate representations of what was being done, or if the Master dyers would have held things back to keep their secrets. We also talked about whether the iron black recipe would have been commonly used in the period, since they had more industrial dying processes available by then.

Based on the discussion on the day and the comments in my judging sheets, there were only a few things I could improve, including:

  • Some tweaks to my documentation (in particular the pictures I chose to use from the artwork)
  • A period buckle rather than something I bought at the leather store

Overall the judges seemed to be quite pleased with the end result, and with my process of getting there. I'll call it a win. :)

Coming up next: Thinky thoughts on future entries into Kingdom A&S