When I found out that Iselda de Narbonne was going to receive her Laurel, I may have demanded to make her mantle. I don’t know. It’s all a little fuzzy.
Due to life, the timeline on construction got a little tight, so the foundation seams were all machine sewn. However, every single visible stitch was hand-sewn, and the applique and beads were done entirely by hand. The fabric and thread is 100% silk. Every fabric used is a two-tone that shimmers when in motion, some more subtly than others. The pearls are glass Swarovski pearls.
I was asked to say something about the mantle as it was presented to her, but initially all I could think of was “A badass bard deserves a badass mantle, and I hope this makes you cry.” However, inspiration struck two nights beforehand, so I wrote her a poem that I read:
From sweet soil sprouts the laurel,
But limbs and leaves with labor grow
dewy drupes. Devotion and time
Furnished fruits fair to the ear,
Foliate and flourishing, brought forth
Verdant voices in choral concordance.
Now a mantle marks the mastership attained
Proclaims to peers: perceive this Laurel
with seeds of song to sow and nourish.
Amang ic seowede nihtlang ic sticode me foroft.
Æt þære wæfersyne wundormentles, þīn wopdropum ic ahope.
The last two lines, in Old English, translate directly to “While I sewed through the night, I stabbed myself often. At the spectacle of the wonder-mantle, I hope for your tears.” In other words, “I hope it makes you cry.”
Several years ago, my friend Liz passed a washed merino fleece off to me. During summer 2020, I decided to finish processing it and spin it. The staple was quite short, so I decided to card it into rolags. Carding was a little difficult, because I didn’t have the right density of teeth in my cards, but by the end my rolags were looking pretty nice. I spun the rolags using a short forward draw, because it gave me a lot of control over the really short fibers.
Once the yarn was finished, I decided it was the perfect amount to split into smaller skeins for my madder dyeing adventure (coming soon!).
It’s hard being a royal bard during the midst of a pandemic. Online bardics aren’t quite the same. So, I decided to make something that would be the only tangible part of my tenure as the King’s Bard. The Royal Bard Box of Atlantia is a beautiful, handmade box that has earned far more ire than it deserves for its solid construction and the three-dimensional shell on the lid (which makes it heavy to carry, and difficult to stack anything on top of). It is, however, the perfect height for a stool.
Therefore, I decided to weave a cushion for the box, with a cavity for the shell to fit into. Even if future bards decide not to use it as a seat, the cushion will allow other items to be stacked on top; it would also be a lovely place to set a guest of honor in a bardic circle.
There’s a lot of memories in the yarn. The blue yarn was some of the first that I hand-dyed, in a flat in Scotland with vinegar and food coloring. I’ve had similar yarn in a sunny place for a while, so while I know it will fade, it won’t fade overly much. The grey yarn was some of the first I purchased as a crocheter (before I even learned to knit!), and the creamy-white was rescued from a charity shop in Scotland. The warp yarn is cotton that I purchased in a caravanserai in Istanbul. While it is difficult to tell in the pictures, the shell is outlined in silver, which I’m also currently using to embroider a banner. The entire cushion was woven using tapestry techniques on a rigid-heddle loom.
Wrote a poem! Did my first calligraphy! Threw in some illumination from the Book of Kells!
I was sick so the poem wasn’t as dramatic as I wanted it to be and the whole thing was late!
To Cuan, king of considerable worth:
Your bard begs you a brief moment
of time, attention, tolerance, and reprieve.
A report of a birthday reached my ears–
so a chronicle I conceive for the King of Atlantia,
a poem of his prowess, praising his might
with words of wisdom to warn and advise,
extolling the integrity of one .viii. times a king.
But unbidden, an illness attacked my form,
muddled my mind and mystified my pen.
Now my reason returns, revived and hale,
But the moment is missed! Mournfully thus
I weakly write a wish, with all goodwill
of a belated birthday from your King’s Bard.
I was honored to collaborate with Lady Clara Brauer and Lady Kaaren Valravn on Thea de Nes (“Aunt Nessie”)’s Pearl scroll. Clara did the majority of the illumination and all of the calligraphy, Kaaren painted the portrait and the cherubs, and I wrote the text. You can find more pictures on Kaaren’s site.
Endless delight is found in pearls: precious prizes, their gentle beauty is formed through great toil. Know that We, Cuan and Signy, King and Queen of Atlantia, have found such a pearl in Thea de Nes. Crafting wonders from fiber, pen, paint, and bead, she shares them freely; her generosity warms Our hearts and soothes Our spirits. Thus do We induct Thea de Nes into Our Order of the Pearl. Done this 8th day of February, A.S. LIV, at Bright Hills Baronial Birthday in the Barony of Bright Hills.
Text: Fires dwell in opals and light Our way! Such fire burns in Muriel MacArtur, so We, Michael & Seonaid, King and Queen of Atlantia, must induct her into our Order of the Opal. Given 3 March A.S.XLIX
In addition to sewing Mistress Ysabeau’s Laurel cloak, I spun the wool for her vigil shawl. Ysabeau has made several vigil shawls for other people, so my friend Lucy (Lucy of Wigan) and I decided that we must make Ysabeau her own. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the yarn-in-progress. The wool was off-white merino from Paradise Fibers, and it was an utter delight to spin. Once the yarn was spun up and washed, I threw together a simple triangular shawl pattern, did a tab cast-on, and passed it off to Lucy to knit. Once she was done with her beautiful knitting, we blocked it together.
Before Gideon ap Stephen was Laurelled at Ymir 2020, Mistress Rosalind asked me to translate the poem she had written to release Gideon from his apprenticeship into Old English. I happily did so — I love translations and find it a great challenge! Below is the text that I sent her; I also sent her a (very rough) recording for pronunciation. While I usually don’t use ċ (/ch/) or ġ (/j/) in my translations as they are entirely a modern conceit for transcription, I included them here to help indicate the pronunciation differences from c (/k/) and g (/g/) for performance.
Breostsefa = mind or heart, literally “the mind in the breast”
Cyneword-cempa for þære cuþre worulde
Cyneword-cempa = champion of fitting words
Rof for reþnesse in randgebeorh eadmede-folces
Randgebeorh = protection such as that afforded by a shield
Seldlic in feaxe stefn geofon-sidu
Seldlic = rare, strange, wondrous, extraordinary, having unusual good qualities Sid = wide, broad, spacious, and is specifically usually applied to the ocean, world, and universe
þurh wordcræft ond woþcræft þin gewald þu geseþe
Syntax of second half-line is “your prowess you show” wordcræft = the art of speaking and writing woþcræft = the art of poetry or song gewald = power, mastery (I chose it for the latter meaning)
Ure gomenwaþu to-gædere on geongum ond byrum
Syntax of second half-line is “of travels and times”; I chose to make plural because there was presumably more than one Byre has many meanings, but I particularly like the translation of “an event, a favourable time, an opportunity”
Nihtlangum leoþurunum listum ond sceaftum
Syntax of second half-line is “craft and creation” nihtlang = night-long leoþurun = counsel conveyed in verse (I thought this meaning was appropriate!) list = art, skill, cunning, craft, artifice
When Baron Hamish MacLeod found out that his wife, Baroness Ysabeau ferch Gwalchaved, was going to be surprised with her Laurel at Bright Hills Baronial Birthday in February 2020, he asked me to create her Laurel cloak. Now-Mistress Ysabeau is a spinner, weaver, and sewer who handsewed garb for one of her first events 32 years ago (in a time and place when handsewn garb was actually looked down on — how far we have come!) so I knew I had to pull out all the stops I had.
At some point in the murky past (that is, 2019), Kaaren, Adelaide, and I made a joke about how we’re the three Fates. I am, of course, the spinner Clotho, Adelaide the measurer Lachesis, and Kaaren the inflexible/cutter Atropos. When we discovered that we all had bought (or wanted to buy) the same grey linen, we decided to make Fates-themed garb in our preferred styles (we also managed to be chronological as well!). For a deadline, we set Twelfth Night 2020.
Because I was doing early period English, I felt a little guilty that my garb wouldn’t be as complicated and require as much hard work as Adelaide and Kaaren’s. So I decided to make everything I wore.