Thursday, October 27, 2011

3/1 Twill Laurel Leaf Fillet - For Seawinds Defender

So after playing with the idea of Pelican/Laurel trim, I had the idea of making a circlet for a recently elevated Laurel (her 'wreath' at elevation was gorgeous, but not an 'every day' kind of headwear).

So - her color choice was red (Rus like red!) so I went with the red and white background with green leaves. I used a different red from the first band - more of a maroon. I still need to get a new sweater with a 'pure' red - but now right now.

According to the website, the theme for the event is 'The Silk Road' - so silk was appropriate for the material. But they also asked for some documentation. Now - this is a pattern I created myself, but it is based on a small motif from a historical example. And the technique is obviously period, although using the inkle loom isn't. So - I figured I'd do a quick write-up.

Heheh - but that's not me! I now have a 9 page write up, with a full page bibliography, 5 images, 2 Excel graphs, and a whole lot of info for the judge to read. And this is LIGHT documentation - not something I'd enter into Kingdom A&S or anything!

So - here's the band. It's on the scanner, so hopefully the colors look true. It's a bright green and a medium dark maroon.
So - if anyone would like to read the documentation or would like the Excel pattern for this, let me know. It's not hard, if you understand how 3/1 twill works - the stripe in the middle adds to the visual complexity, but not the weaving complexity.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pel-Laurel 3/1 Twill band - sample in progress

In working on 3/1 twill, I developed a repeating Laurel leaf pattern. It's not a documented pattern, but there are several 'leaf' patterns done in 3/1 twill, so the 'look' is right. Repeating trim is NOT super common - but the Hallstatt patterns do repeat, so it was done in the past, as well.

When I attended Laurel Prize Tourney, I saw an example of a Pelican/Laurel band she had made, doing doubleface, double-turn TW. It was a very interesting concept - but the 'leaf' looked very triangular, and there were some other aesthetic things I didn't like (poor contrast w/green and red, etc.) - but it was a cool idea.

So - I currently have a few friends who are fibery-types who are both (or will be shortly!) - so the idea came to combine the 3/1 twill design I had already developed to incorporate green leaves, a red stripe, and black and white 'ermine'. I didn't want the black to overwhelm the white, so it presented a bit of a challenge.

I designed the white stripes to utilize the 'missed hole' technique. on 4 of the cards (2 on each side) I put 2 green, and only one white, instead of 2. This meant that as the weave progressed, the 'missed' sections would show the weft thread. By using a black weft, the 'spots' show up as small sections, and the spacing was offset to prevent 'stripes'. As this was a sample piece, I didn't add a selvedge - I would probably add solid black, or a black and white mix, to tie-in with the ermine section.

I think the color combination works well - the red and green contrast enough w/o being 'Christmas' - and I think the spots show up well enough. Other options would be to thread the cards with a black thread, and thicker thread (which would make a wider band) could also help call attention to it.

Comments welcome!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Snug's Mask from Midsummer Night's Dream - or the Nemean Lion, take your pick.

Our SCA Baronial fall event is called Legacy of Lions. It it celebrating our 35th anniversary, and the number of extraordinary people in the Barony over the years. The Arts and Sciences theme is 'Lions', and all entries should reference lions in some form.

Documentation isn't required, although it is helpful. There are 3 prizes given for A&S entries, based on the favorite entries of the B&B, the Lady of the Lion and Lady of Lyonesse. The Baroness and both Ladies are Laurels, so - documentation=good.

After many false starts on Lion projects - a scabbard, a pouch, and something else, which all ended in failure (including a huge gash in my thumb from the scabbard project) - I was giving up on a suitable project. I was still working on the weaving (now done, pictures to follow soon!) - and I was in a funk.

While finishing the weaving, I decided to put in a fun movie to help with the time. I chose the Kevin Kline version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' - light comedy, lots of fun, but not much thinking, since I am very familiar with the play.

And what do I see at the end of the play? A lion. Not a fierce lion (t'were pity on his life to scare the ladies, after all!) - but proof that Shakespearean theatre used animal masks in certain situations.  And since I HAPPEN to have a BFA in theatre, I have LOTS of references to masks, Shakespeare, etc.

So - I pick up my copy of Shakespeare, and check the publishing date on Midsummer. 1594-1595. Perfect. Late, but definitely before the cutoff, and not in the grey period. I read the part. Definitely mentions a mask - one where the actor's head could be seen if necessary. So far, so good.

I have a book on Mask Making that included making leather masks for Commedia dell'arte, said to be the same techniques used during SCA period. OR - make that I -HAD- that book, but as I was looking for it, we remembered that it had been lent out to a friend, whose house had burned down, and we'd never gotten a replacement for the book. ARGH! This is less than a week until the event - no time for ILL. So - it has references, but the documentation will be rather sparce, on that count.

But - I have my Theatre history book, my Shakespeare book, and a few other articles on mask making. So I did a basic write-up, based on previous mask making experiences.

Then - it was time to find the leather. Now - I have a garage full of leather (like - enough to start a small shop ... don't ask, it's a painful subject!) - but could I find good mask leather? No, of course not. It has to be vegetable tanned, so it will mold, and can't be too thick, or it'll be too heavy and hard to shape. So I found some that should be perfect, right? And then look at it, and realize that while it IS vegetable tanned leather - it has a finish applied that makes it almost plastic! WTF?!? Why would someone take perfectly good leather and DO that to it. But - it's a large piece, and if it doesn't work, I still have time.

So - with Terry's help, I get the basic Lion shape cut out, and we do the wet-forming. The leather doesn't squish the same (the top-coat stops it) - but it does hold shapes, and some molding was possible.

The plan was to do all the shaping, let it dry, and then paint/dye it afterwards to make it look like a lion. However - the way the finish is on the leather, dye and paint would be an 'iffy' proposition - and painting is NOT my strong point. So - I think the natural finish on the leather is fine for this project, and looks pretty good. If I did anything, it would be to line the eyes and nose in black, to play up the 'lion' shaping.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Starting documentation on the salt experiment

Here's my initial write-up on the salt experiments. I haven't added in all citations yet - but the basics are there. I have more sources, as well, but these 3 are the 'Biggies'.


This small experiment shows how the formation of ‘Fleur de Sel’ (Flower of Salt) differs from ‘Sel Gris’ (grey salt), as well as the general method for harvesting salt.

From the mid-13th century onwards, French ‘Bay Salt’ gained popularity throughout Europe as a cheap, ready source of salt. The English and the Dutch extracted salt from brines and peat, using boiling and burning methods. These were expensive and required capital investments in pans and fuel. The French relied on solar evaporation and the wind to extract salt from sea-water, which was virtually free. (Bridbury)

The sea-water was drawn into long ‘pans’ dug into the ground. These pans were usually lined with clay, sand, cement, or tile, and the water was moved through them, getting progressively more and more saturated with salt as the water portion evaporated. Finally, the concentrated brine was moved to very shallow pans, where the salt began to crystallize.

The first salts to crystallize form on the surface of the water. This is the ‘Fleur de Sel’ – the finest salt, and looks like flakes on the surface of the water. The salt-worker would wait for these to form, and then carefully scrape them off the water, being careful not to touch the sides or bottom, which would disturb sediment and impart impurities to the salt. This task was very laborious, and required skill and practice. Traditionally wooden rakes and scoops were used because of the corrosive nature of the brine. (Bitterman, Bridbury, Kurlansky)

The rest of the brine would also start crystallizing as the water evaporated, forming a crust along the sides and bottom of the pan. This salt is the ‘Sel Gris’, which tended to pick up sediment from the bottom and would form larger crystals. This salt was scraped from the bottom of the pan, trying not to pick up too much sediment.

Because of the hazards of modern sea-water near Texas (the Gulf of Mexico has some serious issues currently), I have chosen to create an artificial salt brine for the experiment. I used Morton’s Rock Salt from a home improvement store. This salt comes in large crystal chunks, and is 99% pure Sodium Chloride (NaCl, or common table salt). I chose to use this over commercial table salt, because of the larger crystals, and because it hasn’t had ‘anti-caking’ agents added, unlike the Table Salt, Kosher Salt, and Sea Salt from the grocery store. The salt was added to unfiltered tap water. This water is considered very hard, and most people use filters to make drinking water. This water is from the Edwards Aquifer, and has only been treated to make it potable.

To make the brine, I added about 1 cup of salt to approximately 3 gallons of hot tap water. I let it sit until just about all of the salt dissolved, leaving crystals in the bottom. I then poured the salt into terra-cotta pans for drying. While the earthen salt-pans were often lined in clay or sand, some were covered in concrete or tile, and I needed a portable pan for this experiment. These pans were left outside to evaporate.

The first crystals appear on the top of the water, because the brine is at maximum saturation. These will form within hours, especially with a slight breeze over the water, which helps with evaporation. As the water is removed a line of salt ‘snow’ forms around the water-line, as the salt is deposited along the sides. If all the water evaporates, the remaining salt forms crystals along the sides and bottoms of the pan.

If the crystals on top are harvested right away, these will be ‘Fleur de Sel.’ The remaining crystals are ‘Sel Gris’ – although because there is no sediment in the pans from dirt and other contaminants, it will appear very similar to the ‘Fleur de Sel’ in this case. Even though the pans appear dry, there is still moisture in the salt, which would be stacked and allowed to dry before being sent to market.

This salt has a different taste from modern table salt, sea salt, and kosher salt. The minerals in the water impart different characteristics to the salt, which are removed in the modern salt-making process.  Different conditions also produce different types of crystals – more wind, and different evaporative conditions in the pan can create very different effects.

In the past, different salts were prized for their different properties – small crystals, different tastes, different colors, etc. The modern salt industry has removed these impurities through industrialization, with the goal of making 99.99% pure NaCl. This is fine for industrial uses, but many of the unique features of ‘local’ salt have been lost, except in ‘Artisan Salt’ available in upscale markets.


Bitterman, Mark. Salted : a manifesto on the world's most essential mineral, with recipes. Berkeley Calif: Ten Speed Press, 2010.

Bridbury, A. England and the salt trade in the later Middle Ages. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1973.

Kurlansky, Mark. Salt : a world history. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

Notes about the Experiment:

The 2 large pans were purchased at the same time, from the same place, with the same tags/manufacturer. They differ in their porosity, since the one pan kept all the salt on the inside, while the other drew salt out as the water soaked through the pan, forming the ‘frosting’ on both sides of the pan. I have no other explanation for this phenomenon, since both pans were left outside at the same time, in the same conditions, using the same brine for the experiment.

Large Pan 1:
Large crystals, formed from solar evaporation.

Large Pan 2:
Small crystals, formed from solar evaporation.

Small Pan:
Morton’s Rock Salt, used for the experiments

Glass Jar with Brine:
Following a description from Cato on how to produce a ‘fine salt’, I made a linen bag, suspended the rock salt in it, and left it in the water to form brine. The salt has completely dissolved in the water at this point, and the water is pretty saturated.

Tasting Shells: Feel free to sample the salt and taste the difference!

Shell 1:
From Pan 1, the large crystals

Shell 2:
From Pan 2, the small crystals

Shell 3:
Morton’s Rock Salt, ground to small crystals in a mortar

Shell 4:
HEB non-iodized table salt

Shell 5:
Morton’s Sea Salt

Shell 6:
Morton’s Kosher Salt 

Feel free to comment or make suggestions. This is NOT the final version, but I'll be putting it out tomorrow with my salt-pans for a competition.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weaving part 1 - finished!

I finished the first part of the weaving, which should make 4 good sized ribbons for the Legacy of Lions medallions. I ran into a few more snags where the pattern changed unexpectedly (talking to people and taking it to A&S day were the culprits) - but it's not noticeable unless you know what to look for.

Next up is to get out the silk and warp up the next batch. I think I'm going to increase the length just a bit - the loom can do more, and that way the next 4 will be just a bit longer. I have plenty of silk, I just need to unravel it. Getting everything ready and warped is the goal for Tuesday, which is my last day off this week. Luckily - I'll have 2 mornings free this week, while the kids are gone to do more weaving, which should help.

Once I have this last batch warped and underway - time to get back to planning/doing other projects.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weaving Progress

Here's the progress on the weaving - it's almost 72 inches, so I've definitely got 2 ribbons done (30-36" for each).

The pattern shifted a bit, so it looks a little different - but I like it, so one ribbon will be 'different', although it probably won't be noticeable, unless they look REALLY closely.

A friend asked for the loom set-up, so here it is. It's a basic Inkle Loom. I figured the length to try and get 4 yds, plus waste/take up. The loom can do more, but I wanted to do 2 equal warpings, so I didn't fill it completely.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Current list of books from ILL

So our ILL system limits us to 10 active items: books checked out, as well as requests and books 'in transit' back to the library.

My current list of books:
Roman West Country: Classical culture and Celtic Society
Studies in Ancient Technologies
England and the Salt trade in the Later Middle Ages
Garum and Salsamenta: production and commerce in materia medica

I also have one book coming BACK to me, since I managed to return it instead of the book I was intending - it's The bread builders : hearth loaves and masonry ovens, which was recommended by Mistress Alix.

Now hopefully I can find the time to read these before they have to be returned. I need to pull out my Salt bibliography, and see which I can mark off as 'been there, done that' - as expected, many of the books don't list much in particular about salt (dates, references, etc.) but rather 'Salt was used to preserve food' - in many incarnations, times, places, etc.

So if the headache will go away, I'll try reading for a bit, and then weaving. Or ... curl up in a ball and sleep until morning.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The weaving - so far, at least

Here's a picture of the weaving. I like the color combo - it doesn't scream 'turquoise' which is good. The pattern doesn't look quite the same as the Excel mockup - but that's okay. It's relatively easy to weave, but looks more complex, which is nice.

I can still change the design (I give myself about 3 inches to change it) - but I think this will work.

The silk for the Ribbons

We're going to see how adding pictures work on here:

I've chosen to do 3 colors for the ribbons: navy blue, a turquoise, and then white. The pattern will be navy, with a stripe of turquoise between the white as the background.

Here is a color sample:

I've found that the navy really tones down the turquoise in weaving, so it should look fairly even 'blue' rather than 'green'.

I'm using silk from Goodwill sweaters as my source - it's all an even dye lot, there is TONS of string, and it's usually 2 ply, which gives a great thickness for TW weaving.

More pictures when the weaving has commenced - but first to unknit some more silk!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Synopsis of the Plot so far - or what I'm currently working on.

I just finished attending Laurel's Prize Tourney over the weekend, and had a lot of fun demonstrating how to make salt and flour using Iron Age technology.

If things work out with the spelt sourdough culture, I'll probably do a supported research paper on 'A Simple Loaf of Bread'. If the sourdough doesn't work out, I can still write the paper, but displaying it at a venue like Gulf Wars becomes problematic if I can't make good bread. Not so much at Kingdom A&S, since the paper is judged ahead of time - but still better to have the finished product for display and tasting.

Next on the docket is to make the cords for the Champions for our Fall Event. I need 8 ribbons, approx. 1 yard each (to go over armor/big guys heads). I want to play with a variation of Egyptian Diagonals for it, and I'll be pulling out the silk, I think - the Light blue looks really good with the navy borders, which will tie in with the Baronial Colors. While I have til the middle of October - I want to get the pattern down, and then this will be my movie watching project.

After the ribbon, I -MAY- think about an A&S Entry for the event. The theme is 'Lions' - and I have a few ideas, although nothing has 'gelled' yet. I could do a leather satchel with Celtic motifs that would include a Lion - I just need a Celtic Lion that would tie in with the other knotwork. I've been meaning to make a satchel in this style, so it would be a good exercise in leatherwork, which I haven't done in awhile. I could also do a small tapestry piece with a Heraldic Lion on it - but the charge is restricted in Ansteorra, so if I made one that was specifically a 'Lion of Ansteorra' - I couldn't use the pouch. Other than that - I've got nothing, in terms of a Lion project.

Pretty soon, I need to start the process of making my Static Entry for Kingdom A&S. I need a bit more information on the spices used, and then my goal will be to make Garum. For the uninitiated, Garum is the Roman Fish Sauce of choice - they put it in EVERYTHING, including fruit deserts, appetizers, meat dishes, etc. It's commonly thought of as 'Rotting fish sauce' - but really is fermented fish enzymes in a salt brine that create MSG, or 'umami' taste - a flavor enhancer similar to Soy Sauce, Worcestershire sauce (which has fish in it, too!) and the Asian fish sauces. The process is relatively simple: layer whole fish, fish guts, or chunks of fish (it needs the parts removed during gutting, but doesn't have to be in one piece) - with salt and herbs/spices. Put it in a container in the sun. The vast quantity of salt prevents bacterial action (rotting) while the enzymes in the guts start dissolving the fish from the inside. Eventually (about a week, although it can sit longer) - a clear liquid forms, which is strained off and decanted, and used as a condiment like soy sauce. Wine, vinegar, and other things were also added, but that isn't my plan. If I choose the right fish, it's even Kosher, which was a thriving trade in the Roman era.

Yes, it sounds gross. If it works, I plan on making a replica of a Garum pitcher found at Pompeii for display purposes, and set it out with some bread. I won't put it out unless it tastes palatable - can't scare off the judges, you know: freak them out, yes, scare them off, no. If it doesn't work, it may also become a supported research paper, with a section on 'This is how the first attempt failed'.

After that - who knows. I have the fishing net finished, but I still need to play with spinning cowhair for the foot-rope. I also need to play with lead and wood/cork for the weights and floats. Once that's done, the next project will be to go fishing in a coracle with net. Talk about a BIG project: I made the boat, made the net, cooked the fish, and ground the flour for the loaves of bread. 'An Iron Age Meal' :)

So I think that's it for now. Things can change quickly, however - I watched a YouTube video on tanning, and now I want to try that project again, using the new information I have. Luckily, I still have 5 dried cowhides in my backyard (Lucky?!?!) to experiment with. So that may be the next project on the list, once it cools down below 100 every day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The First Post

Okay - let's see what happens when I push this button ...

I'll start posting stuff here soon - but not tonight.