Tag: for friends

Work for Kolfinna Valravn’s Golden Dolphin, 2022

Photograph by Nicolo Santorio

Kolfinna Valravn is one of my favorite people, period. In addition to being an amazing artist, Kolfinna is unfailingly kind, thoughtful, and giving; she thinks of others, and then does something tangible with it. She is always working to make others’ lives better, even when “on a break”. Of course I had to help with her Golden Dolphin (GoA service award).

Ollamh Lanea gathered a dream team for this scroll: Bran Mydwynter was our designer, Aurri le Borgne was the “illuminator” (which, in this case, handled substrates, engraving, and assembly), Lanea wrote the beautiful words (of course!), and I was in charge of calligraphy… and spinning and weaving.

Yes. I got to spin and weave for a scroll. Even better: I got to spin and weave for a scroll for Kolfinna!

You see, Kolfinna loves the Bronze Age, especially the Egtved Girl. Bran knew this, and designed a scroll that incorporated the Egtved Girl’s spiky belt plaque, corded skirt, and a runic plaque (the research behind the runic translation ALONE is incredibly impressive, let alone the piece as a whole, so please go read about that now).

But first, let’s talk about the calligraphy.

Runic Calligraphy

Runic practice and color decisions

The plaque for the calligraphy was made by Aurri out of a piece of pergamenata attached to thin wood and then spraypainted, giving it an excellent metallic sheen. I had never done calligraphy for a scroll without tracing, so I was incredibly nervous (I hadn’t traced the calligraphy for the Apprentice’s Manuscript, but if I messed up with that I could scrape it or start a new folio if needed). I spot-tested to see if an eraser hurt the base paint, and it didn’t seem to, but I was worried enough about reducing the sheen that I decided to minimize erasing as much as possible. I really didn’t want to freehand this, though, as I was terrified I would mess up the spacing.

Bran’s runic layout

Thankfully, Bran had made a layout with the runes that was almost the exact size of the plaque. After discussing with Aurri, I resized it slightly in Procreate to increase the margins so she had more flexibility with attachments when assembling, and then I went old-school carbon-copy-transfer tech: I rubbed the entire back with a pencil, placed it carefully onto the plaque, and then traced over it with a mechanical pencil to transfer the design to the surface.

Since the original runes had fairly regular line weight, being incised, I tried several different tools to paint the runes, including about a dozen different paintbrushes and a tool only known as the dottifier. After some trial and error, I settled on using a crow quill with acrylic paint.

Finished plaque

This was incredibly satisfying to do, and I am quite smug about how well it turned out. I also don’t think I can call myself a baby calligrapher anymore.

The Skirt

Combed wool roving (blended grey) and black locks

I did the initial research and spinning for an Egtved skirt in 2020 (in fact, I kept bugging Kolfinna with info about it as I was researching and spinning for it), but I’ve been stalled on the actual creation process. However, because of this, I was immediately ready to make a small sampler for the scroll! Because I plan to weave a full skirt soon(ish), I’m not going to go particularly in depth in this section.

While I’ve spun a lot of wool in the last two years, I wanted to spin specially for this project, because I knew exactly the wool to use. Pre-pandemic, Kolfinna joined me at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival for her first ever visit, and she fell madly in love with Jacob sheep (and their two-to-six horns on both sexes). I had purchased a Jacob fleece in 2021, and while the fleece was predominately white (to my disappointment), I thought there may be enough to make the cords of the skirt black. Because I wasn’t quite sure how much yardage I would need, I decided to make the woven base out of white wool; it would be hidden anyway, and extend the amount of wool I had.

Aiming for an 8″-wide sample, I estimated the amount of yarn I needed. I then processed an appropriate amount of wool using wool combs borrowed from Lanea (having washed the fleece last year), then spun up the yarn at ~10 WPI on my wheel. While I was worried about yarn chicken, I actually only used about half the yarn I spun for the skirt sample:

Estimate Total Spun Used
White (warp) 8 yards + 1 yard plied 32 yards (7.1 grams) 16 yards
Black (weft & cords) 101 yards 114 yards (127 grams) 62 yards
Grey (twining) 2 yards 14 yards (1.42 grams) <1 yard
The weaving: observe the three loops of black weft (six threads total) per pass of the warp.
The rigged inkle set-up

Time for weaving! The Egtved skirt has an interesting construction, where three loops of weft are pulled through and placed on a peg per pass of the warp; as the weaving progresses, two loops are twisted tightly and then plied together into cords. The amazing fiber artist who reconstructed the skirt originally used pegs clamped to a table instead of a loom (which you can see here), but I don’t have a table where I can set up for a long time. Thus, I rigged a semi-portable set-up. I put the warp on my inkle loom, turned my rigid heddle loom upside-down and clamped a peg to its crossbar, and then sat on the floor with my leg between the inkle and the rigid heddle loom. I kept a ruler nearby to make sure that the peg was always 15″ from the warp (especially important to check after taking a break!). As I progressed in the weaving, I plied the cords together using a hand-cranked plying tool to speed the process. As with the original, I tied the ends of each cord in a half-square knot before carrying on.

Pinning the rings out to equal length in preparation for twining

Once the eight inches were woven, it was time for finishing the bottom of the cords. In the Egtved skirt, the end of each cord has the ends overlapped into a ring, then wrapped with some lightly-felted wool. Instead of combing, I flicked a bunch of white locks, and then threaded the loose locks onto a yarn needle. Using the needle, I threaded the lock through the ends of the loops (to bind them together) before wrapping them around the cords. Instead of wet-felting or friction-felting the ends, I used a modern needle-felting needle (stabby stabby stabby!). Once this was completed, I twined the cords right above these rings with the grey yarn.

Then, I blocked the whole piece. Instead of soaking the piece, I pinned it to the correct length and sprayed it with a squirt bottle, sopping up the extra water with towels. Once it was dry, I wove in all the ends except one, which I left so Aurri could tell the front from the back (as much as there was one).

Finally, I wove in all the ends, and passed it off to Aurri with the calligraphed plaque for assembly.

All the pieces laid out and waiting for assembly (photo courtesy of Aurri)

It truly was a fantastic experience to work on this collaboration with Lanea, Bran, and Aurri; it truly was greater than the sum of its parts. The only thing better was Kolfinna’s reaction when she saw it!

A Mantle and a Poem for Iselda

Iselda during court, having received the mantle.

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.”

Back of collar detail.

Center bottom border detail

Draped on a chair, from the back.

Draped on a chair, from the front.
Folded in half, draped on a sofa. Yes, it’s huge.
Iselda displaying the back after court.
Iselda displaying the front after court.

Scroll Text for Thea de Nes’s Pearl

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.

Text:

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.

Spinning for a Vigil Shawl

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.

In-progress picture from Lucy

Finished shawl before blocking

Ready to be presented!

Mistress Ysabeau’s Laurel Cloak

Photo by Lady Adelaide

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.

Read more

Knits for Rapunzel

In Spring/Summer 2019 my friend Adelaide decided it was finally time to tackle a project she’d been wanting to do: a genderbent, period-accurate outfit based on Disney’s Rapunzel. As a knitter, I immediately volunteered to knit her a flat cap and garters. I was not particularly good at taking photos of my work before passing it off to Adelaide, but luckily our friend Kaaren Valravn took an excellent photo of Adelaide in the garb this fall where the garters and hat are perfectly visible.

You can read all about Adelaide’s hard work here.