Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I feel like I'm running out of time, with only 6 months to go before the end of the challenge.

I'm a little scrambly about whether and how much I'll actually finish before the deadline, but hopefully it'll all sort itself out.
I would also like to announce that I am now (thank goodness) 80% finished with my goal!
Late last night I finally finished my goldwork project.

It seemed like it took forever, though I think I actually only spent about 24 hours on it, total (over about 2 weeks). I think it's just the fact that the project, as it grew, seemed to take longer and longer.

About 18 months ago, I think, I was admiring the work of a lady of my Kingdom, The Honorable Lady Renata l'Rouge. She had made an amazingly beautiful embroidery of some 14th century people hunting, I believe. It was Or Nue, Shaded Goldwork.
She saw me admiring it, and the next time I saw her, she handed me a book, and two small packets of gold thread (that's just the kind of person she is).
The book was The A to Z of Goldwork, byKathleen Barac.

One packet of thread was faux gold, and the other was real gold. Gold thread, in this case Gold Smooth Purl, is made of a silk core wrapped with extremely thin ribbons of gold.

Faux Gold
The faux gold was probably (I'm not certain) Kreinik Imitation Thread, which is made of synthetic metal wrapped around cotton. 

I decided to use the faux gold first, so as to be able to mess around without being worried about wasting real gold.

Gold Purl
Or Nue is done by couching gold thread down to a surface fabric with colored silk thread. The colored thread forms a tapestry-style image. Originally, the thread was covered completely with silk, but in order to "shade" the color, you could space the silk stitches a little wider apart, allowing the color to fade out a little. In this way, you could get a wide range of colors, and make a very subtle image.

 Modernly, it seems the silk thread is used more sparingly, and the gold allowed to shine through more often.

I chose to do a circular image rather than a rectangular one, which meant starting in the middle of the image and working outwards.

The faux gold was already doubled up, and wrapped around a card. I decided to start at the end and see how much I would need as I went.
I stretched a piece of white handkerchief linen in an embroidery hoop (I have a frame, but this was a small project, and I'm also not very good at securing things to the frame yet).
Next, I drew out the design (a Sycamore Token) on the fabric, and marked out the center.
The center of the doubled thread was the center of my image.
I started with red silk thread (Gutermann, from Joann's, because I had it left over from sewing silk banners). I couched down the center, and then attempted to turn it around to start the spiral. It took some doing, but I managed eventually.
Then I realized that in order to do this properly, I was going to have to thread multiple needles at once.
I threaded one with red, one with gold, and one with white.
As I went around, when the pattern called for a different color, I just tucked the current needle into the fabric (sometimes pinning the extra thread up so that it didn't get stuck), and started in with the next one, much like knitting or weaving in a color pattern. I tried to space the stitches wider on the right half of each leaf.

The first one went quite quickly. I finished about half of it in a few hours the first day, while at an event.
My friend, Baroness Bronwyn, had tried goldwork before as well, and she happened to be hanging out with me at the event, and gave me some great advice. In particular, she emphasized that it was important to try to only use one gold thread for the whole project, because starting and stopping was a pain.

The finished piece is 1.5" in diameter.

The only major problem with the first one was that I accidentally reversed the colors of the badge. On the plus side, I also reversed the number of leaves, so if you ignore the stem, it's actually accurate after all!

 I took a break from the goldwork once the first project was done, because I was preparing classes for Academy.

When I went back to it, I stretched a new piece of linen, and estimated how long the thread would have to be do make a similarly sized piece to the first one.
I decided on 4 1/2 feet.
Unfortunately, while the real gold was all bundled up neatly, it was VERY curly, and difficult to keep neat while trying to measure it out. I ended up untangling and re-spooling it several times before I was done.
I measured out 9 feet, and cut it, and then folded it in half.
This time, I wanted to make a Fleur Badge.
I may have made a mistake in not drawing it out on the fabric this time, but I chose not to.
The Fleur only has 2 colors, red and gold, and I already had those colors threaded up.

It was going pretty well, I had about half an inch diameter done, when I left it unattended for a little while. I'm not sure if it was the cats or the Smallest One, but when I came back, someone had detached the gold thread, and one piece of the detached thread was shorter than the other.
I sighed, trimmed the longer piece down, pulled the ends of the short piece through to the backside, and tacked them down. Then I pulled the two new pieces down to the back side, tacked them down, and kept going.
Medieval Or Nue
Unfortunately, due both to the larger size of the finished piece, and the missing foot of thread, I ended up having to add another few feet of thread on near the end as well.
It's not impossible to add a new piece of gold thread, it's just annoying. The way I was doing it, I stuck the eye-end of a needle up from the back to the front of the fabric, right where the gold thread was, fed one piece through, pulled it down, and then repeated for the other. Then, on the back, continuing in the same direction as the thread had been going on the front, I tacked it down to the other threads, being careful not to go through to the front. When it was suitably tacked down, I nipped off the ends to make it neat.
I did the same thing, backwards, for the new thread, but made sure to add it very close to the old thread, to avoid a double-thickness in the design.

As you work outwards, of course, the diameter gets larger, and the amount of sewing involved in each round is greater. Thus, it seems like it takes longer and longer (and it does), so I was very grateful to finally get to the end of it last night. I even stayed up an extra half hour to finish the darn thing because I was only half a round from done.

Because I didn't draw it out first, I started the fleurs a little too far from the center, and ended up with a larger piece than I had anticipated. No big deal, except that it used more thread. As in the Sycamore, I tried to leave more space between stitches on the left side of each fleur. I think it was more noticeable this time.

The Fleur is 2" in diameter.

The main difference in working with the faux gold and the real gold is in the drape (which seems silly to say in light of these not being fabrics, but it is true). The faux gold was really quite stiff, and tended to stick out rather than lie neatly. The real gold was much nicer to work with, and I enjoyed the deeper quality of color, as well.

Now that both are done, I will frame them, and hopefully give them to a worthy gentle at some point (or to Their Majesties, to give to a worthy gentle).
I hope whoever receives them will enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Glass Butter Demo Day

That's right, I've learned how to make butter from glass.

No, not really.

Last weekend was our kingdom's Fall Academy event.

I had it marked down for crossing off a few different goals, and for once, I was totally successful!

It was a beautiful fall day in one of the most mountainous regions of my state, which meant that we had to drive up an extremely steep angle in order to get to the site, and then there was almost no parking left by the time we got there. However, we found somewhere to be, and unloaded all the ridiculous amounts of things I needed for my two classes.
I made it to the room just in time.

My first class was on the ADEPT Demo, which is a wonderful program for putting on historical demonstrations for schools.
The SCA is not (as I may have mentioned before) a straight reenactment group. However, we do study history, and we do specialize in the Medieval Period, so it makes some sense that we are sometimes called upon to present the Medieval Period to schools.
We are also a group of (mostly) amateurs, so it is helpful in the extreme to have an outline, some ideas, and a general plan for how to create an engaging, helpful, and accurate presentation for students.

(disclaimer: this is not from an ADEPT demo. It is from a demo, though)
Some years ago, a few ladies from my local area, one of whom is an Adult ESL teacher, put together such a plan, and when I became a Chatelaine (the local outreach officer), I found it all on a handy-dandy floppy disc. I fell madly in love with it, because I am a huge sucker for living history, and this draws a lot on the living history experience.

There are a lot of components, in a mix-and-match sort of way, but my favorite, and the largest component, is the In Persona Q&A Session.
You sit yourselves down in front of the kids, in order of persona time-period, and then stay in persona the whole time, while they ask whatever they want to ask. Teachers are strongly discouraged from "helping", so that the control is in the hands of the students. It's a lot of fun, and I think it really helps the students get an idea that these were real people, not just facts on a page.

You can find all the materials here.

Les Tres Riches Heures
I will stress that it is important to put together a group of people with different enough personas to be interesting (or they can create an alternate persona, if there are too many 14th Century French Noblewomen, for instance), and practice ahead of time. Be familiar with your persona. Be confident that you can answer all the questions with as much accuracy as possible. Be sure that your persona is pretty likely to have existed, which is to say, not a Welshwoman married to a Mongol, or a Norse Japanese man. If it isn't, again, create an alternate one just for this demo.

In our state, Medieval History is often taught in 6th grade, and then again in 9th or 10th grade depending on the school. Get to know your state curriculum, and send letters to the schools in your area, announcing your availability. Know your team's availability, and work within it.
My class went very well, and we filled up the second half-hour with questions, and chatting about options and techniques.

Next, I ran out to the car to get all my dairy equipment, but the class ahead of mine in the room had run into a snag, and ran a few minutes late.

Once we got into the room (the beautifully decorated Art Room, covered in murals, much like the rest of the school), I set up, and discovered that I had brought just enough supplies for everyone, which was great. I hadn't anticipated the popularity, since typically my turn out at Academy has been under 5. I brought a dozen kits, and all but one was used. The last one was used to store extra buttermilk.

This was a different class than usual, because I decided to combine it with a Cheesemaking class.
I have yet to accomplish my hard-cheese goal, but I make a mean Roman Soft Cheese, so that's what I went with.
Thus far, I had only made the Roman Soft Cheese (from Bassus' Melca, redaction from Katja Orlova) found in the Coronation Feast of Robin and Isabeau. This time, I looked again at the actual reference, and discovered that Bassus actually says to warm up the vinegar, and add the cream to that. I decided to try it that way.
I warmed up about a half cup of apple cider vinegar in a crock pot, and when it was hot, added my usual half pint cream and half pint milk. It didn't curdle as visibly right away as it usually does the other way around, but I left it overnight, and it was quite nice by the morning.
I let it drain all day, and then spiced it up with salt and Penzey's Northwood Spice (a brief unsolicited plug: I love this stuff!).
Having proven that it was possible in a crock pot with a reversed method, I decided to do it this way at class.
The only major snag, besides it being my first time combining the two, and therefore I forgot to mention a few things, was that my butter churn leaked like a sieve. Luckily, we had abundant paper towels, so we stanched the flow until I was able to make butter with it.
cheese we made in class, drained.
The cheese part went very nicely. By the end of class I was able to show the students the curdled milk quite clearly.
Of course, the butter took about an hour and a half in the churn, but the gallant class-coordinator, Muirenn, was kind enough to spend the lunch hour trading churning-places with me until we finally got it done.
Then she helped me clean up the mess. She was awesome, and I sent her home with 1/3 of the butter (because that's what fit in her container).

Finally, it turned out that the next class in the room was that of my friend Artemius, and was a class I'd been hoping to get to for ages: Beginner Glass Beadmaking.
Muirenn and I both took the class, along with a newcomer to the area, and a few others wandered in and out throughout the three hours. It was just the three of us actually making beads, though.
Artemius is a great teacher--very patient, very knowledgeable, and he does beautiful work.
He had a torch, and a wide variety of glass rods, and we were able to make three different styles of bead. He interspersed the hands-on work with some demonstrations of the more complicated methods, such as attaching two smaller glass rods together to make one which is easier to work with, and adding an air-bubble to a bead (which was amazing).
the beads I made
 All in all, it was a great day. The only downside for me was that, being in glass for six hours straight, I didn't drink...anything. I ended up with a raging headache. Still, it was a lot of fun.
The boy entertained himself with the regional fight practice held in the gym, and the older kid took care of the younger one all day, which was very kind.

Next up: more fiber arts. Hopefully another update will follow shortly.
I am also only two classes (and one schola) away from finishing my class quota. Yay!