Teaching and Weaving

The last few weeks have been a flurry of research for teaching a class at An Tir Collegium on A Brief Survey of Tablet Woven Bands, being an overview of extant tablet weaving pieces and patterns to reproduce them. It was a few weeks of preparation prior to the class, but I was able to put together a 50+ slide PowerPoint presentation. It had pieces from 500 BC Austria to 14th century Germany, and from countries all over Europe from Scandinavia to France. I arrived in the classroom a few minutes early, but spent several more struggling to get the computer to work properly.  Once we made the magic of technology cooperate with me, I looked up and realized that the classroom was not just well-attended, but standing-room-only! I thought I’d have a small handful of students and it was more than 25. No worries. I’ll just panic a little.  AAAAAHHHHHHH!

After we finally got the computer working, it went well! Most of the students were either novice or beginning weavers; only a couple were intermediate or advanced. The feedback I got was mostly excellent, which was very encouraging. I even was pulled aside by a couple of students later and told that they really enjoyed the class and that a few things that I mentioned were particularly helpful.  😀

A few days later, I sent a copy of the slide show to a prominent tablet weaver in Germany who gave me some really good feedback–just a couple of minor corrections and marking some images that I had missed–but she said, “It is one of the best summaries I’ve read.” That is high praise from such an esteemed source! (Giddiness ensued!)

My goal for teaching the class was to have as many pieces done in my own hand as possible.  The more slides I added, the fewer examples I had…so I needed to get some work done.  In preparation for this class, I made a few woven pieces to pass around. They are:

14th Century German piece.  Original was brocade (of course), but this is a very close facsimile in a threaded-in version.  This one was still on the loom, which was great for students to see all set up with all the cards needed for it…all 28 cards.

Dublin Dragons.  Original was also brocaded.  I think this is even prettier than the original.  It’s great fun to weave, too!

Hallstat 3, Austria, 500 BCE.  This was found in a salt mine with several other woven pieces.  The colors were remarkably well preserved due to the salt.  This one was fast and lovely to work, and I find it so remarkable how complex the pattern is, and this in 500 BCE…the technique was already very advanced at this time.  In Mistress Madrun’s class, she mentioned how much our weaving skills have declined in the last few centuries compared to what it was back then.

Right now I’m working on a piece that has a repeating motif from the Merovingian Queen Bathilde in Chelles, France (above).  I’m not as impressed with this selection of colors (below), but I wanted to choose something from my badge/arms.  I think the blue and green are too similar in tone, or maybe there is too much contrast with the green and white.  I’m not entirely sure, but I have a taker for it when I finish the other 3 yards of it.  It’s kind of slow going and the twist is building up on it rather quickly.  This would work much better in a warp-weighted version, if I had something set up to work on.

I have a list of about 20 other pieces in a binder, ready to go, that I’m looking forward to making, and a few patterns that I plan to make more than one length of, in various colors.

While I was getting ready to teach, I also had a commitment to make beads for the Lampworkers Guild.  These are for Aethelmarc, Northshield and Avacal.  Each grouping has one bead for An Tir’s sitting Queen and the others are gifts to the Queens of other Kingdoms, which I believe are sent to them at events in February and August.

Now that all that is done….I need a long sleep.

Kingdom A&S & Bardic 2017

Well, I didn’t take any pictures of the event–or not really any worth sharing–so I will just discuss a few thoughts.

The artisans blew me away again this year. There were five who did the full three entries for A&S Championship, and several more who did single entries. There were varieties of marzipan, metalwork, costuming, painting, glasswork, and so much more! I wasn’t able to see any of the presentations (until the finals) because I was working in the tally room with the Bardic scores. Sadly, there were only two contestants in Bardic this year–I hope that the word spreads and we have several more next year!

It brings up the topic between apprentices and Laurels… “So, dear apprentice, what are YOU going to enter?” Well, let me tell ya…I’m overwhelmed with intimidation. One entrant did a very specific topic…something about the use of squirrel pelts as currency in Novgorod and the use of birch bark as easy, disposable paper. Uh…. I will have to read up a lot more on Flanders to be able to narrow anything down like that.

**HOWEVER… when I picked up my kids after the event, I remembered that they have a paper birch in their front yard.  I walked over, ripped off a piece of bark, grabbed a pen and wrote a note to my son.  You could write on it very easily with pencil or pen.  I don’t know how it would work with ink and quill.  Maybe I’ll try that sometime.**

Ideas…just brainstorming here:
– Food in late period Flanders
– Partlet Styles of the Flemish women
– Baskets from the Dutch Painters

Of course all of these pale in comparison to something cool like “Women in Medieval Guilds in the 14th Century” or “Carved 15th Century Chair” or “Knitted Silk Prayer Pillow” (spinning the silk, dyeing the silk, knitting on 0000 needles at 40 stitches to the inch or whatever). More often than not, these people are single or childless…and have an ample amount of time (and money) to spend on their chosen craft, not to mention come across some obscure reference and fall into the perfect rabbit hole.

So while it’s *inspiring*, it’s also *depressing*.

I still have my short list of things to do this year:
* Making a jacket
* Making a couple partlets–white in lightweight linen, and black in gauze wool
* Making sleeves
* Building a basic mix-and-match wardrobe,
* Making repairs and embellishing existing clothing pieces

I did make a few repairs and replaced the lacing and the lacing rings–they worked GREAT! I found some long, white shoelaces (about 63″ each), sewed them together to make a long 125″ lace and finished the ends (cutting off the plastic aglets).

The shoes…sadly, those didn’t work out. They looked awesome, but the arches in the Birkenstocks were just wrong. The arch was in the middle of the ball of my foot. I even tried a smaller size with the same result…I had to return them. I’m going to see if I can find someone to build me a pair of late period shoes that I can add my orthotics in.

I also spoke with a couple of the lampworkers in the guild and we have come up with a plan to make a few extra sets of beads to have on hand in case one or more of our volunteers misses the deadline.  The sets we are making now are smaller, so it’s about half as much work for each set and I’m happy to make a few more for the guild.  They are also having issues with members not using cardstock to mark their bead sets, and the more fragile paper is tearing away; essentially, they need to order some business cards (VistaPrint) and mark them with modern name, SCA name and contact info.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to work on building my wardrobe and doing the very best work to make it look fabulous.  I’m going to do some more weaving–maybe make a variety of woven bands from period patterns.  And do some more bead work for the guild.  I’ll be busy enough.


Whatcha doin?

I know I haven’t posted a bunch of pictures of stuff I’ve made recently, but here’s a couple.  I’m making beads for the Kingdom of Caid for the An Tir Lampworkers Guild.


I’ve made a lotta beads for this group last time around…8 or 9 strands…

The only other thing I’ve got going on (besides end-of-school frenzy and graduations and two weddings coming up in a month and…) is I’ve worked a bit on planning my wardrobe improvements.  I have linen to make gowns, but no wool to make overgowns.  I’m really picky about it, so I need to do some shopping and fabric fondling.

January Beads, Weaving & Other Stuff

(Originally posted 28 Jan 2014)

The end of January is nigh upon us and I have several things to show…at least in beads and a bit of weaving.

First, there’s me…I set up a table at Ursulmas where I made beads for the weekend.  While there was a demo display booth contest, there were significant limitations as to what I could do given that I was going to be actively demonstrating beadmaking.  Where the booth was located (unknown prior to set-up)?  What I can display that isn’t flammable?  Is there a banner and how do I hang it?  I can’t bring a tent or pop-up with a roof, so what can I bring for ambiance?  So many questions.  I brought the color copies of Callmer’s beads and brought all the old beads I could find that I store in a small treasure box.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot of old & ugly beads from my first months of bead making; I had strung them on dental floss and hung them over the treasure chest on the table.  I need to pull those aside and keep them somewhere else…like decorating the garden or something.  Some of my later beads were loose in the box, and the newest ones were strung on mandrels on the table.


File:An Tir Lampworkers Guild.jpg

I was told there was a banner for the Kingdom Lampworkers Guild, and it would be delivered Saturday morning.  I found the current banner design posted on the Lampworker’s web site; the banner was made for a previous event, but the design was not fully vetted by the Heralds, so it is currently an unofficial banner (not passable, apparently).  Since the Lampworker’s Guild does not have a device registered with the College of Heralds, I had some discussions with a couple of them at the event to come up with a new passable design.

In any case, the banner might not be understood by the public, so just to make it clear to passers-by, I made a lettered banner that simply reads:  “Lampworkers Guild” in a font called King Harold, matching the lettering from the Bayeux Tapestry.  I hung it using the packaging tape I had with me on the exposed pipes in the frigid hall.  It ended up being the only banner, as the Lampworker’s banner ended up not arriving after all.

Although I didn’t mean to be the exclusive lampworker working the booth, I was the only one there for more than half of the weekend; Aenor joined me for a while on Sunday, making a few beads in the frigid hall.  It was so cold on Sunday that the bead release was not drying and we walked around with our plastic buckets of vermiculite looking for a heat source.  The portable heaters outside were turned off to save fuel; they said they were only heating the building at night (which didn’t make any sense–no one was in the building at night).  I dipped the mandrils and more than 90 minutes later, the bead release was still wet.  If you heat them using the flame, the stuff dries too quickly and either cracks or explodes off the mandril.

Because I had more than 16 hours of uninterrupted time to make beads, I was able to finish almost 40 beads over the weekend, using just under two tanks of propane–I was able to make several more after returning home.  I finished all the beads I needed for the Kingdom gifts to Caid and Glen Abhann–they’re not due until July Coronation, so I got the Gold Star from the Guild head. 🙂  There are more than I need here, so I will send on the best 20 of each colorway.

Here are a few that I made over the weekend, in addition to the Caid and Glen Abhann beads…I also made a few as part of a commission for Jadwiga.  She chose six others that I failed to photograph before she came to pick them up.

I am also doing a little card weaving. I finished the weaving for Tyrssen of Middle Kingdom and warped up a new one on the loom.

I brought the loom with me to the event, but didn’t do any during the weekend.  The booth next to mine was occupied by Demo Winners, Emma and Nigel, who covered their table with weaving and leatherworking items.  I placed my loom on the edge of the table, next to hers, to add to her display.  This one is strung up with Perle cotton, using just over four balls of strings–one yellow, one black, and two red–in #8 floss.  I had quite a time finding extra red floss, and ended up having to replace it with a readily-available color.  Red 666 was available during the holidays, apparently, but not later, but everyone was carrying Red 321.  I had to un-warp six cards, and I’ll use those threads in a later project, I suppose.  While this is more expensive than using the cotton warp, the cost of materials is still under $20, it comes out lovely and shiny, and the cards turn smoothly.  I have a couple other projects in mind that I might try, using these threads as a substitute for silk.

A&S and Plans Set in Motion

I’ve made quite a few beads!  Some are really nice!



And some are pretty ugly…they are rather experimental, so don’t abuse the artist too much.  I was trying to make some Islamic Folded Beads, but found that they are tediously long to build and don’t always turn out right. In other words, my skill level is not yet up to that standard.

I started another technique that involves using a pointy tool, much like a dental scraper, but thicker and stronger.  I made the core of the bead then added stripes and dragged the tool over the surface of the glass, deforming the stripes, which looked very much like the folded beads, and took a fraction of the time.  Many of these turned out pretty cool, but others didn’t do as well…a bit lumpy and coarse.  One had a fatal flaw that caused…well…

…sudden bead death.  I didn’t get this one into the vermiculite fast enough, so it cooled down too quickly, causing stress fractures.  I could glue it back together, but there’s no telling if other fractures might appear later.


The perle cotton tablet weaving is coming along.  I have about a yard done so far on this particular piece.  The threads are pretty fine (#8 DMC perle cotton, found at any fabric or craft store) and slick, which makes the cards turn so smoothly…like buttah!  The cost of materials is a bit higher, but not astronomically high.  We’re talking about $12-15 spent for this project so far…maybe more if I need to use another $3 skein of thread for weft…instead of $5 for an entire project.  Yeah, it’s about triple or quadruple, but still cheap for what it is.

My plans in the not-too-distant-future (say, summer) is to build something like this:
warp-weighted loom
It goes with my sheep-to-shawl plan.  You know…take the fleece from the sheep and turn it into a wearable garment.
1.  Make loom.
2.  Spin fibers.
3.  Weave into cloth.
4.  Full cloth.
5.  Make something from cloth, like a 10th century Danish apron dress.
If I can finish all that by next January, I can enter things into Kingdom Arts & Sciences.  I was told (by a supportive Laurel friend) to enter three things:  loom, woven stuff and beads.  I think I can do it…but I’m going to have to do some serious work over the summer.

This goes well with the advise I received from *another* Laurel friend, who said to stay within a particular scope of time/culture when you enter Kingdom-level contests.  In her experience, being “all over the map” doesn’t show as well as being a bit more focused.

I’m thinking I should build a prototype of the loom first; try to build it out of really cheap materials, like 2″ x 4″ and 1″ x 2″, then make a more ‘natural’ product out of cut trees.  I can’t even imagine what I’d need to do to cull trees from the neighborhood or out in the wilderness somewhere.  Maybe someone in the SCA has a piece of property they’re willing to let me cut a tree from.  First things first…build the prototype.

Beads & Weaving (3/10/2014)

I’ve made a bunch of beads lately.  This set of 10 (11) were made for my dear friend, Heide, who wanted to make bracelets for her sister and mom.  Heide grew up on a cranberry farm near Aberdeen, so when she saw the first bead I made, she said “CRANBERRIES!” and commissioned 10.  I was happy to make them for her and threw in the 11th bead free!  OK, technically it was the first bead, and it wasn’t the prettiest, but she loves them anyway.


Then I was messing around with different colors and techniques, tools, and trying out some stuff with clear glass.  I don’t particularly care for working with the clear stuff–it seems to need a lot more heat and takes longer to melt, but it can create some really cool effects.

end-of-nov-2015-1756 end-of-nov-2015-1760 end-of-nov-2015-1762  end-of-nov-2015-1784  end-of-nov-2015-1763

This one I call the Diversity Bead.  🙂

end-of-nov-2015-1785end-of-nov-2015-1783Portrait: Experimenting with color combinations. .. Then doing a tried-and-true red, white and black combo.

I love the chemical reaction I had with these two colors–I need to get more turquoise.


I finally got the weave done–it’s so lovely!  I don’t know what I’m going to do with it…although I think it’ll end up on an apron dress.

Since the loom was now free…I warped up some yarn on the inkle loom to make the band for Frigga the Loom.  I’m thinking I need to get it on the rail and start attempting to weave.  I need to figure out where to set it up in the house–probably the front room, but I need to rearrange some furniture first.

Lampworkers Guild Stuff & Lampwork 101

Here are the finished sets of beads for the Lampworker’s Guild to be given as gifts to various Royals at Pennsic.  I will need to mail these to the appropriate person soon…

While I was making beads, I got a little silly and made this little bee.

I also tested a few combinations for fun and to see if some colors were happy working with one another.  Green and yellow is very tricky.

These were sets that I was putting together for largesse, however, due to the Lampworker’s Guild needing more beads made, they got re-allocated to that project.  Just means I need to make MORE BEADS!

I’m looking forward to teaching my beginner’s class in a couple weeks!  I think it’s going to be very popular and my co-teacher and I are going to have to try to get many people to work the torches, and hopefully they’ll be able to make at least one bead each.  In a conversation tonight, I thought I’d put a little bit of my Beginner’s Lampwork information here for you to peruse.

Equipment:  Here’s a list of the things you will need to start bead making.

1.  Blue tank of propane.  Not only is it portable and clean, but it also is the right size for clamping down.  If you have the know-how, you can also refill these from the propane tank on your BBQ…
2.  Hot Head torch.  This piece is necessary for melting the glass at the right temperature.  Craft torches and things you get at those home hardware places will burn your glass and turn it grey and gross looking.
3.  3″ C-clamp
4.  6″ L bracket
5.  3″ hose clamp (the circle thing)
6. SAFETY GLASSES (most bead makers will recommend tinted lenses to save your eyes from damage staring at the bright flame)
7.  Flathead screwdriver
8.  A cookie sheet with a lip on it.
9.  Pliers
10.  Lighter (I recommend a long lighter–the kind you use to light your BBQ)

11.  1 gallon bucket.  An ice cream bucket is the perfect size.  Just what you needed–an excuse to buy a bucket of ice cream!  Go ahead…eat it while you read.
12.  Fine grain vermiculite.  Found in your local garden department.  You can get a small bag of it and share it between a couple lampworkers.
13.  Bead release.  This jar of goodness will keep the glass from sticking to the metal rods.  I recommend the Frantz Bead Separator; it runs $7 or $8 for a 4 oz. jar which will help you make several hundred beads.  It’s also flame-dry or air dry; some air-dry types will pop if you put it into the flame when it’s still damp, which means you have to scrape it off and re-dip.  (Also, you will have to add a bit of water from time to time–it tends to get really thick or completely dried out.)
14.  Mandrils.  These are the metal rods that you need to dip into the Bead Separator.  I would start with small ones, like 1/16″.
15.  Glass rods.  It’s VERY important that you get glass that has the same COE (coefficient of expansion) or you will end up with broken and cracked beads.  Most lampworkers use 104 COE.

It seems like an extensive list, but a lot of it is little things that you might even have kicking around your garage.  The rest you can mail order or pick up at your local hardware store.

Where to order glass and torch heads:
www.Frantzartglass.com.  They’re located in Shelton, WA, will pack up your order quickly and bubble wrap the heck out of it!  If you have questions or concerns, they get back to you fast to help you.  I can’t say enough nice things about them!
http://www.devardiglass.com is another company my husband ordered from a couple times.  They’re also a good place, but I haven’t worked with them myself, so I recommend Frantz. 🙂

If you are looking for heraldic colors to make beads, here are some part numbers for glass that I have found to work really well (they’re also all 104 COE, so you’ll KNOW that it’s right!):
White 591204
Black Tuxedo 511872
Red Dark Effetre 591436
Yellow Lemon Medium 591408
Green Grass 591216 (although this can be hit-and-miss with other colors–work with lower temperatures to make sure it doesn’t bleed into others, and/or use a blob of clear between layers)
Blue Lapis Cobalt Pastel 591246
Purple — this is a tricky one…there really isn’t a *good* purple, but you can get pretty good results from Grape Ape 511654 or Thai Orchid 511632
Clear:  591004

Other part numbers to look for:
Hot Head:  110137

Mandrels:  1/16″ 324316 or 3/32″ 324332
Fusion Bead Separator:  332104
Graphite Paddle (a shaping tool):  301212 or 301302
Marvers, Probes, Picks and Rakes:  other tools you can search for that can help you make fun shapes and manipulate glass.  This is for the 201 class, however…  You can pick up a cheap set of dental tools that you can start with–just remember that the metal has to stay cool or the glass will stick to it.
You can find videos on YouTube on how to make glass beads.