In modern life, there is only so much time for creative projects.  I probably ought to be working on a different embroidery project (which has a pending deadline) or on scroll projects (which also have deadlines), but I promised myself this embroidery project would be done this year. I’ve been working on it a little bit each day to further that goal.

So, Ta Da!  The sweetbag is now half-way stitched.


sweetbag half done

The photo doesn’t show how shiny the silver and gold are.  Trust me, the stuff just sparkles in the sun.

I figure I’m about a 1/3 of the way done with this.  I have to stitch the front side and then I’ll have to do the construction, including tassels, cords and pulls which mostly are done in techniques I have very little experience in.

I’m pretty happy with my progress thus far.



What next?

This piece of embroidery is now completely done.  Now I have to decide what to do next.

finshed arms

Some artsy/crafty projects can be done while watching television, some can’t.  Some artsy/crafty projects have to be done at a table, some can be done anywhere.

I need to be doing some scroll work, but I also have a sweetbag I really want to finish and some embroidery for collar and cuffs for a new shift.  And then I really want to make a new kirtle as well as finding a doublet I started and working on Pentathlon projects and reading about Elizabethan culture and and and there isn’t quite enough time in the day to do all of it (though I should have more free time in the next few months.)

I think my embroidery project will be to finish the sweetbag.  That’s been on the to do list for far too long. I also want to make some things to wear for Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium so those will go need the top of the list as well.

Best get started then!

Starting new or finishing old?

I’m home from a weekend at Pentathlon, where I judged a couple of categories in the every-two year Caidan Arts and Sciences competition.  And like every time I’ve been at the event I am ultra inspired by all the amazing arts and projects that were done.  And I want to sweep all my current projects into the trash and start completely new things.

There’s something so enticing about a new project.  And after hours/weeks/years, an old project often becomes tiresome and a burden.  But of course this leads to the madness of having dozens of unfinished projects.

So the goal is to find time and energy to finish the old stuff as well as keeping the flames of inspiration burning on the new projects.

Arms embroidery project


So first up, I am going to finish this.  The next embroidery project after this is planned and started and then one after that is planned (and the one after that is in my head.) I’m still stuck on how to finish the stars in the chief of my arms, but I have a couple of ideas I’m going to try.

And the next 3 scrolls are planned and at least one of them is laid out.

Ars longa!

Deciphering Secrets – Writing and Decorating the Quires

I really wanted to go all out on this and decorate all eight pages of my vellum but a fatal mistake on calligraphy for one page and everything taking way longer than I thought is preventing that.  I hope you will like the four pages I did finish.

My first inspiration  is the Aberdeen Bestiary.  I looked at a number of pages both online starting here https://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/ms24/f1r and in a paperback facsimile of the Bestiary (Bestiary MS Bodley 764 by Richard Barber).  I planned to do a single column of text with illustrations the full width of the text space, with varying sizes of rectangles.

Next I looked at “The Hunting Book of Gaston Phoebus”.  The entire book is not online but there are postings of individual pages.  One of them is here:   http://www.omifacsimiles.com/brochures/phoeb.html  but I also have a hardback facsimile of the work: “The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus: Manuscript francais 616 Paris, Bibliotheque nationale”, Harvey Miller Publishers”.  I am looking at this manuscript for background diapering patterns, frames around illustrations and capital letters.

I also looked at the Luttrell Psalter http://www.bl.uk/turning-the-pages/?id=a0f935d0-a678-11db-83e4-0050c2490048&type=book for ideas on line enders.  The text in the Luttrell Psalter is also a single column.

Last I looked at the Life of St. Margret manuscript http://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:1017293 for some simple capitals and marginal decoration inspirations.

My plan for decoration is:

Page 1 – Arms of the Barony of Lyondemere with mural crown (Full illustration)

Page 2 – Illustration of the Lyon de Mer (vignette)

Page 3 – Text about the Lyon de Mer (including 2 capitals, one planned to be rubricated)

The Lyon de Mer is the King of the Sea and fierce protector of the Barony of LyondemerE.  Said to come from fabled Lyonesse, it is comprised of the fore parts of a lion and the back parts of a dolphin.  This fierce beast can be seen swimming in pacific waters off the coast of fair Caid combatting all enemies of Crown and Kingdom.

Page 4 – Illustration of the Sanderling (vignette)

Page 5 – Text about the Sanderling (including 2 capitals)

The Sanderling appears to be a frivolous and flighty bird darting about on black legs on the sandy beaches of Lyondemere, chasing waves, but it is the patron all artists and crafters of the Barony.  Its grace and vigor grant inspiration to all and nurture the spirit of every weary artisan.

Page 6 – Illustration of the Lyonicorn (vignette and marginal illustration)

Page 7 – Text about the Lyonicorn (Text including 3 capitals in different styles)

The fabled Lyonicorn has not been seen for many years on the shores of Lyondemere.  co-joined from the front of a lion and the front of a unicorn It is rumored to travel about the Barony by sets to right, and left and many a turn single in a clock-wise path.  If one is very still country dance music may be heard and the creature might appear.

Page 8 – Maker’s mark, personal badges (in place of author portrait)

To start, I always wanted to make shell go, so I first made gum Arabic from crystals as that was an ingredient for the shell gold.

I made gum Arabic from gum Arabic crystals, soaking them over night in water and then filtering the mixtures through cheese cloth into a container.  The gum Arabic solution was so thick it had to be coaxed through the cheese cloth.  I added a little vinegar and oil of clove to help prevent it from moldering. (Turns out, adding vinegar was a mistake.  I started over later and made a new batch of gum Arabic from powdered gum Arabic.)

Next I gathered materials to make shell gold.  I’ve been saving bits of gold from gilding projects for awhile.

20170207_201129_32653593931_oI wasn’t sure how well it would work so I added only half the gold into the mortar.  Then I added some honey and poured in some Kosher salt.  I ground it for a bit and as it seemed to be working, I added in the rest of the gold.

After grinding for a bit, I put the mixture in a jar with some distilled water and stirred it up.  15 minutes later a lot of the gold had settled to the bottom, but some is still in suspension in the water.  I’ll wait at least any hour before checking again.  After it settled for a while, I poured of the water, trying not to disturb the gold sediment at the moment of the container.  I repeated this several times and then left it to settle overnight.  In the morning I poured of the water and deposited the gold sediment in a shell.  I left it for a while, then drew off excess water with an eyedropper.

The final step was adding a little gum Arabic and testing it.

Next I decided on a color palette and made up paint from dry pigments (mostly colors available in the Middle ages and Renaissance.

The process for most paints using a binder such as glair, gum Arabic or egg yolk is about the same.  Add water to the pigment, add the binder and blend it together.  Most period paints were ground on a porphyry slab but I just ground them a bit in a small votive candle holder. The sample picture is lead white.

I did the next step out of order.  Because I was planning to do calligraphy on both sides, and I wanted to trace some of the artwork, I thought I better do that first.

I did the calligraphy next and made a big mistake, forgetting which pages should have which text.  I think I could scrape the page, but started running out of time.


Next step was to do some gilding adding real gold to the pages.

Finally I was able to start painting.  I did the base colors first and then added highlights and darks to embellish the pictures.

I think I put more than 20 hours into this and it’s still not done (and I could have easily spent another 20-40 hours on the parts I did do:

Page 1 – Arms of the Barony of Lyondemere with mural crown


Arms of the Barony of Lyondemere, Kingdom of Caid with real gold crown.

Page 2 – Illustration of the Lyon de Mer


Penciled but not painted miniature in the style of the Aberdeen Bestiary.

Page 3 – Text about the Lyon de Mer

Not shown, mistake on the calligraphy.

Page 4 – Illustration of the Sanderling


Sanderling miniature, sketched but not painted

Page 5 – Text about the Sanderling


Sanderling text, calligraphed but capitals not finished, line-enders not done.

Page 6 – Illustration of the Lyonicorn


Lyonicorn illustration, Painted in the style of the Hunting Book of Gaston Phoebus, marginal ornamentation, first capital letter, real gold with red painted outline.

Page 7 – Text about the Lyonicorn


Lyonicorn text page, with second capital letter, large drop cap, with gold interior, blue with white decoration, third capital, red I with ink filigree outlining, line-ender ornamentation

Page 8 – Maker’s mark, personal badges.


In place of an author portrait I’ve done an illustration with two of my badges, the crowned squirrel holding a banner with a black rose in a black annulet.

Thank you for reading all this and hopefully for your comments!

Deciphering Secrets – Ruling the lines

I started by examining several manuscripts to get a feel for what I wanted to do.

First stop was the Aberdeen Bestiary.

I started with this page https://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/ms24/f7r and then looked at several others following.  The page shows triangular marginal pricking and double lines for the frame. The lines are fairly thick compared to the thinnest part of the calligraphy, possibly a plummet, but that’s just a guess.  The text is written just above the ruling line.  The beginning of the text starts mostly at the second line of the frame but sometimes goes over.  As does the ending text.  The illustrations sometimes fill the entire text space, but sometimes are smaller, creating smaller columns of text.  The lines appear to go under the illustrations, but they are heavily painted and it’s a little hard to tell for certain. The date of the Aberdeen Bestiary is 1200.

Next I looked at the Luttrell Psalter here http://www.bl.uk/turning-the-pages/?id=a0f935d0-a678-11db-83e4-0050c2490048&type=book  The ruling lines are very faint and I’m not entirely sure but there may be lines on both the top and bottom of the text (or it may be a shadow from the other side of the page where there is line filler.)  The frame appears to be double lined, but it is very faint.  There is a great deal of painting outside the text area, in the margins, which show evidence of being trimmed.  The pricking holes are not in evidence on the pages I looked at. The Luttrell Psalter dates between 1320 and 1340.

Next I looked at the Hunting Book of Gaston Phoebus.  The entire book is not online but there are postings of individual pages.  The first is here:  http://www.omifacsimiles.com/brochures/phoeb.html  The text for the book is set in two columns and the frame is done in single lines. The text is written above the ruled lines.   Another page shows the same thing.  Neither is high enough resolution to show pricking holes.

Trying to find more bestiaries that are online I found this one, Manāfiʻ-i ḥayavān., from Iran http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/thumbs/77363 dated between 1297-1300 (with later additions done in the 19th Century).  It is framed in red ink in double lines.  The text appears to have no ruling lines. Image is not high enough resolution to see pricking holes.

The last manuscript I looked at was the Jacobus de Voragine: Golden legend dating from around 1370. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8479013d/f47.item.zoom  The text is set in two columns within a single line frame.  There is no sign of pricking holes.

Because I want to do calligraphy on my vellum quire, I need to be careful about where and how many lines I can fit in my text space.  I measured the size of the bifolium  and then used the Golden Ratio/Golden Mean aka secret canon method to determine how much space the text should take up.


It was sadly much less than I expected, so I went back to the words I’ve written for the project and edited it down, so no section is more than 14 lines.  I decided that to mark the pages, I need to make a template.  Historically, it would probably be made out of vellum, but I don’t have a piece to spare, so I will use cardstock.  Likewise, some kind of awl (or knife) would be used to prick the holes.  My awls are too thick for this job, and my pen knife is also too thick, so I think I will try a push pin.

Making the template has used more modern tools than I would like, on how exactly this process was done.  I used a computer to generate a ruling sheet, and then a light box to transfer the pricking locations to a piece of cardstock.


After the template was made, I did a practice sheet using a lead point aka plummet that I cast a couple of years ago.  (The plummet is made of half lead, half pewter.  It should have been half lead, half tin, but pure tin turned out to be hard to get.  It’s pretty soft and leaves a nice grey line.)

Then I did the first sheet of the bifolium.  I had to be careful to remember which were my framing lines and which were text lines.


I still need to do the other sheet, both sides, but I wanted to get this turned in tonight.  I’ll edit it and add the other sheet as soon as I get it finished.


Added:  Because I want to do this as a coherent book, I only have one ruling pattern.  This is on actual vellum, done with a lead plummet.

Here’s the second page taped before I put the template over it.


And here are both pages both ruled together:


Looking forward to the next part!