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.
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.
For my third-ever tapestry project (the other two done before I joined the SCA), I went a little overboard: I wanted to weave a bag for my spinning wheel with my device on one side. After an entertaining discussion at my local shire meeting, I decided to add a motto on the other: tanta oves, paucas tempus (so many sheep, so little time).
Pattern & Design
For the pattern, I wanted to weave the bag in one piece so that I all I had to do was fold and sew it. I also gave it multiple straps to hang it from my wheel, plus straps with buttons to close it.
I created the designs on my computer, as I had already drawn a digital version of my device. I also had some good fonts to use as a jumping-off point for the text. I printed these out and used them as a cartoon behind the loom, though I did Sharpie some spots on the warp to assist in alignment.
Materials & Process
I used my vertical tapestry table loom for this project. Because of the bag layout, the pattern was woven so that the warp ran vertically in the final product, as opposed to horizontally (as in period). I was determined to weave from my yarn stash, so my warp was a midweight cotton and my weft was a worsted-weight knitting wool. Because the straps were woven in, so were the buttonholes. The buttons were leftover ones that I made out of Sculpey for a baby sweater; I sewed them on at the end.
The choice of warp and weft led to the greatest issue with the tapestry, which could modernly be called “pixelization.” Because my gauge was large by my pattern had some finer details and many curves, the final product ended up less smooth than I wanted. This was also my most complicated tapestry so far (horses are notoriously hard in art!), so I learned a lot from these challenges! Also, I totally went overkill on straps.
Progress Photos & Final Project
Overall, I’m happy with the bag. It fits on my wheel and holds all my bobbins plus my niddy-noddy, diz, and some wool. It doesn’t interfere with carrying the wheel, either! Finally, I learned so much from this project that I know my next tapestry will be leaps and bounds better.
I made this bag for Lochmere Midwinters in January 2019 as part of their Pilgrim Bag competition. The picture shows the fabric a much darker blue than it is in real life.
Materials & Techniques
Outside Bag Body
Material: Wool, handwoven on a rigid heddle loom, fulled, and hand-dyed in indigo
Techniques: Handsewn with commercially-dyed wool
Materials: Linen (commercially woven)
Techniques: Handsewn and felled with cotton thread
Materials: Commercially-dyed wool in Atlantian colors
Techniques: Inkle-woven and handsewn onto the bag’s back
Fluffy fluffy goodness made of wool
Don’t worry! The badge hasn’t gone missing: this is the bag’s first “pilgrimage,” so it does not have a badge yet! After this event, I will sew a badge (perhaps a Spike?) to the front flap.
Pattern & Construction
Thanks to Mistress Karen Larsdatter’s links pages, I first found the pattern by Sabine Scholl, the pattern by Myriam Gateault, and the translation of Scholl’s pattern by Lord Coblaith Muimnech (Ansteorra). In several manuscript images on these pattern pages, there were blue bags with white tassels and details (Atlantian colors!). I then remembered the wool cloth that I had handwoven, fulled, and dyed in indigo—it would be perfect for this bag! Addendum 2019: I used a small rigid-heddle loom to weave the cloth out of a rough commercial wool; I then fulled wool by putting it in my home’s washer/dryer and forgetting about it!
While I prefer the look of the trapezoidal bag in these patterns and illuminations, I wanted to use every inch of my handwoven/hand-dyed fabric, so I settled on a rectangular bag (but still with tassels, because who doesn’t love tassels?). Because the final construction was simple folding and bag-lining (pun definitely intended), I did not use a pattern; I relied on the dyed fabric’s width and cut the lining to match.
Finally, while straps in illuminations are usually a single color, I wanted to reinforce the Atlantian colors of the bag body, so I patterned the inkle-woven strap with white and multi-toned, asymmetrical blue stripes. I wove a long enough piece to serve as a strap, then sewed it to the back of the bag to create the same visual, from the front, that I saw in the exemplars. Addendum 2019: I used a modern inkle loom to weave the strap. The asymmetrical blue stripes were a necessity, as I had a limited amount of match yarn remnants!
These three exemplars gave me confidence that a blue-and-white square bag with tassels could be possible across multiple centuries.
For Twelfth Night 2019, Vadoma organized an artisans’ exchange. I immediately signed up and was assigned Mistress Greer. Knowing her love for frogs and later-than-my-time persona, I was struck by inspiration: a frog on a lily-pad!
The “lily-pad” is a Tudor-style wool flat cap, knitted and fulled. The “frog” is a needle-felted wool pincushion; his spots are black-headed pins. The “flower” is two sets of inkle-woven trim, one purple-pink-white and one yellow-white with beads.
We were also requested to write a story about our objects!