Friday, November 30, 2018

Persian Miniature Embroidery

I was reviewing my prior blogs and websites and found this item I did a number of years ago. It was inspired by a Persian miniature painting, and was executed in silk split-stitch on a linen background. I ended up giving it to Lady Aelfguire Willowmoon, one of my friends who was active with the Great Dark Horde household in the SCA.

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Here is the original miniature it was based on, from 1371. The original is in the collection at the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Spanish Horseman Alms Pouch

While she was serving as the first queen of Northshield, I offered to Countess Bridei to produce some embroidery for her. She requested a piece with an horseman theme, given her interest in equestrian activities. I designed this piece, drawing on inspiration from medieval Spanish illuminations of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, modifying the image to show HE Bridei on horseback, riding into battle. The red and white striped circle was inspired by the arches in the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, in keeping with the Spanish theme. The embroidery was done in silk split-stitch on cotton ground, and mounted to a maroon wool pouch. The pouch was hand-sewn, and has a number of tassels with silver beads. The tassels were whipcorded from cotton thread.

The pouch was based on a Byzantine relic pouch from the 10th or 11th century, described on this website.
Byzantine relic pouch, 10th or 11th century. 

The Spanish illumination that served as a the model for the horseman in the design:

The roundel blank I created from various elements adapted from Spanish illumination:


Close-up of the finished embroidery:

Completed pouch:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Radziwiłł Chronicle


Christmas came early this year! I recently found for sale a facsimile of the Radziwiłł Chronicle. The book was located in Russia, and I thought shipping would take a few more weeks, so I was surprised to find that it had already arrived.

The Radziwiłł Chronicle is a 15th century copy of a 13th century manuscript. It is a copy of the Primary Russian Chronicle (Повесть временных лет) famous for its 600+ miniatures illustrating the history of Kievan Rus' up until 1206. The book belonged to Princes Radziwiłł of Lithuania (later part of Poland) in the 17th and 18th centuries, but now resides at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.

The copy I purchased has two tomes. The first is a facsimile of every page cover to cover of the original; the second contains scholarly articles, a transcription of the medieval Russian text, and description of each of the minatures.

The covers of the two books. Each tome is pretty hefty.

A sample of the descriptions of the minatures.

A sample of the text transcript.

I've seen a handful of the miniatures online, but it's nice now to have the complete set. Stylistically, they remind me of the Bayeux Tapestry. I think they'd make a great embroidery project.


The Apostle Andrew foretells the foundation of Kiev. According to Eusebius, while he was visiting the Greek colonies around the Black Sea, he traveled north into the Slavic lands, possibly as far as Novgorod, and while on the Dneipr River, prophesied the foundation of a great city. This story was popular with the Slavs in the 10th and 11th centuries as evidence that Kievan Rus' was preordained to accept the Orthodox faith.

According to the Russian Chronicle, in 907, the Rus' prince Oleg made war on the Byzantines, sailing a large army of troops to Constantinople. The Greeks chained the Bosphorus to ward off the Russians' boats, so they attached wheels to the boats and sailed them overland to attack the city, and the Greeks sued for peace. Strangely, the Byzantine chronicles make no mention of this ignominious defeat.

Many of the stories in the Primary Russian Chronicle focus on their wars against various groups, including the Derevlians / Pechenegs, another Slavic tribe who were their constant enemy.


Given their Viking ties, it's not surprising the Rus' used longboats to travel by river and to make war on their neighbors. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Upping my game, part II

In my last post, I talked about how I was inspired to up my game and come up with a better and more attractive way to store my embroidery equipment and supplies. Now that I had some neat new bobbins to store my floss, I needed a way to organize them. Previously I had been using a plastic zipper bag I got at the fabric store, which was pretty ugly to be honest, so I typically kept it hidden in my satchel, bringing it out briefly when I needed something, and then quickly hiding it away again.

I was inspired to come up with a storage system that would keep everything organized, and be pleasing to the eye. I realized I spend a lot of time at events sitting at long tables, where I'd have space to lay out my materials. For other events where table space is limited, I could continue to pull my kit out as needed, but at least it should be attractive and plausibly period.

Finally I decided to make a tool roll, with a leather outer surface to protect the contents, and a felt liner with pockets to hold everything. I got leather materials at Tandy, and purchased a half-yard of honey-colored wool felt (to match my persona's coat of arms) for the inner layer.

The original draft plan for my tool roll, with rough measurements and layout. The pocket layout ended up not working well when I measured some of the items, so I changed the arrangement a bit when I converted this into an actual pattern.

Ivan hard at work. After creating a final plan, I cut out two pieces of leather -- one for the back of the roll, and a thin strip to go over the felt and help hold it down when I stitched everything together. The leather was dyed green, and then I punched holes for the stitching. The felt was cut out and the pockets were sewn on by hand. I then laid out the felt between the two layers of leather, lined everything up, and started sewing. 
The kit, sewn together. You can see the pockets here on the felt liner, and the stitching holding the roll together. There's a large piece of leather the same size as the felt on the bottom, and a thin strip above to hold the felt down to the back. I also constructed a little needle book with a leather cover and felt pages, and a sheath for my snips.

The finalized roll with my supplies: needlebook, wax block, wrought-iron snips, floss bobbins, a pen, an awl, and a koma storing my Japan gold.

The rolled up final product. I was happy with the shade of green that it dyed to. It rolls up nicely to keep everything safely stored, and spreads out to display all its contents. It's stiff enough that I can roll it out in my lap temporarily if I'm not sitting at a table, or I can leave it rolled out while working at a horizontal surface. I applied a beeswax-based waterproofing to the leather to help protect the contents.

In the end I was very happy with the result. I probably should have decorated the outside somehow, but I don't currently have the right leatherworking tools to stamp a pattern on it. So, maybe something to consider adding in the future. This was a pretty easy project that took me about two weeks (on and off) to complete, but one I hope to get a lot of use out of.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Upping my game, part I

For years, I've carried around my embroidery materials and equipment in plastic zippered bags, which were convenient, but didn't look vaguely medieval. While I was at Autumn's Inspirations, I was working at a table and was suddenly inspired (hah!) to come up with a better storage system for my stuff - scissors, floss, wax, needles, etc.

First up on my list was finding a better way to store my embroidery floss. I had been using the mundane method of plastic cards on a ring, which was really kind of embarrassing to pull out at an event while I was in garb. A quick look online found a number of historic examples of thread winders from history, including:


In the end I decided I liked the bobbin style as easier to store, and possibly reusable also for Viking whipcording. A number of vendors online sell reproductions, but I found them first on Etsy (of course). I ended up going with these bobbins from a vendor named SisterMaide, who sells a number of different lathed styles in batches of 5 for a pretty reasonable price.

Thread bobbins with some Soie d'Alger silk from Au Ver a Soie.



Saturday, November 24, 2018

Trying this blog thing again

It has many years since I last tried blogging, and now that I've resettled in MA, gotten active again in the SCA, and am doing new things in general, I decided to give it a shot once more. I toyed around with Blogger and Wordpress before deciding that I still like Blogger best. This blog will primarily be focused on my SCA experiences and projects. If this works out well, I may start another page for my mundane stuff like gardening.

After playing in the SCA in Northshield for more than 20 years, we moved to Baltimore and lived there in Atlantia for 4 years. I never really "gelled" with the group in Baltimore. Practices were held in a location that wasn't terribly convenient, especially once Toni started working in DC and getting back home late. We did go to a couple of fun events in Virginia and the Carolinas and met some fun folks, but our events were few and far between for various personal reasons. One big factor was Trip was aging, and finding kennels for the dogs was difficult (also a hefty drive). 

Earlier this year we relocated to the NE Massachusetts area, and have started playing again. I now live in the Canton of the Towers, part of the Barony of Carolingia. So far I've been to two events here in the East. The first was hosted here in Carolingia in September. It was a fun outdoor event where got to enjoy the fall weather for a bit. My friend Mistress Dreda was kind enough to introduce us to some of the natives, and I got to see a few folks from college and Northshield that I hadn't seen in years. We brought Cooper along to his first SCA event -- he enjoyed the attention a lot, but was a bit spooked by the noise from the heaving fighting, so we ended up having to leave a bit earlier than expected. 

Our second event was Autumn's Inspirations, held outside Portland, ME. The site was a lovely church in a small town, and the city, surroundings and weather were all quintessential New England Autumn. The event was a lot of fun! It had about 70 people, and was a day of classes and A&S. I taught two classes (Bayeux Tapestry Stitch, and Intro to Icons), which were both received well, and we ended up making several new friends throughout the day. This is pretty much my favorite kind of event, and I had a wonderful time with a bunch of great folks. Looking forward to seeing the "bad folk" from Malagentia again!


Cooper at his first event, September in MA

Ivan teaching his Bayeux Tapestry Stitch class to a packed room at Autumn's Inspirations. I had EXACTLY enough kits to go around. Unfortunately the handout was mangled by the printers, but the class went well anyway.

Fun pewter stickpin site token from Autumn's Inspirations. I'm not sure who created these, but they were a great idea.

At the last minute at Autumn's Inspirations, I decided to enter one of the show and tell items I brought along for my Bayeux Tapestry class in the A&S table. The piece was very well received, and I was honored to receive the popular vote, which came with the grey ceramic mug you see at the top as the prize. The box to the left shows all the popular vote beads I received. A few personal tokens were left behind as well. Not sure who they came from though!