•July 27, 2014 • 13 Comments

To everyone who was insisting at the tullie house workshop yesterday that my caramel shortbread was a cake and not a biscuit, I can authoritatively inform you that you are wrong.

I came back last night and asked Martin about it. Martin is a trained chef and therefore a veritable professor of biscuitology, and he says caramel shortbread is a biscuit, so Nyah Nyah Nyah.

And then when I came home all tired Gareth and his sister, Caz, were trying to persuade me it was a good idea to organise an off peak weekend residential medieval embroidery course at rockside. My brain hurts.

Fairytale coat

•July 25, 2014 • 12 Comments

Ok, so promised textiles, and textiles it is, just not necessarily historical ones. You’ll have bear with me at the moment, I’ve got magazine stuff to write and classes to prep and kids costumes to make, so as light relief I’m allowed two days each week working on something utterly pointless to stop me stressing out.

So I picked up the fairytale coat. Dragon is done, and I’ve decided not to add scales. Time to finish the landscape beneath him.

As you can see I’ve been working on the left hand side


The idea was to add as many fairytale/ nursery rhyme/ myth elements to this landscape as possible, but I also don’t want it looking too bitty. I think maybe I’ll work in a few more green lines like the one round the bottom of the ridiculously phallic tower to tie it together.

I tried twice to work the pied piper on the left, dancing away in the opposite direction to the carriage, but I picked him out twice. I might try replacing him with a satyr.

There is something hugely satisfying about French knot sheep.

The frog is called Gareth. I keep kissing Gareth but he refuses to turn into a handsome prince. I think he’s doing it just to awkward.

I’m not entirely sure that harness the mice are wearing would effectively allow them to pull that carriage without strangulation. Then again I’m not sure the laws of physics apply to mice pulling a pumpkin.

I fancy working in a naked emporer if I can find some wool the right colour. Gareth says this is just because I want to embroider willies, but I planned to make him so fat no one would be able to see his dangly bits.

It needs more random Witches Trolls and Fairies, after all, it wouldn’t be the internet without a lot of random WTF…or a family wedding, for that matter.

still not quite perfect

•July 23, 2014 • 16 Comments

I promise that the next post will be textile related.

Some of you may remember that two whole summers ago I was wibbling about what to do with a silver chalice I’d had on my workbench for a while becuase I’d got the top and bottom all out of proportion.

In the end I decided to make the top and bottom into two separate chalices. So this is the old bottom piece all decorated up and with a new bowl.

icelandic chalice

Sorry it still looks grubby. It’s going to have to be hand polished, which won’t happen until it’s been assayed, and that won’t happen until September because I need to finish the other chalice and a few bits to make a trip worthwhile (they have a minimum charge). I would have barrelled it in the itnerim but it’s too big for the barrel now.

I’m much happier with it, although the proportions are much less squat than the original it now seems more at ease with itself

There is some firestaining, but before I get the interior gilded I’ll have the whole thing silver plated to cover that up.

I was in two minds about the lettering around the brim but I’m glad I went ahead with it. The letters will look very smart once they’ve been picked out by oxidising them – I’d love to be able to use proper niello, but what with that being an extremely dangerous lead compound it’s just never going to be an option in my workshop. I have also concluded that I have to stick with machine engraving as I simply don’t have the strength in my hands for the other sort. sigh.

Overall, I’m giving myself a B- on this one. Mostly for effort.

experimental archaeology/mucking about

•July 17, 2014 • 18 Comments

I’m doing some Roman storytelling at Aldborough near Boroughbridge on Sunday. A few months ago I did a site visit and was introduced to a very nice gentleman called Aiden, who showed me some stuff he dug up from his garden, including this
aidens aldborough snakey

It’s bronze, and Aiden says brooch. It does have part of a broochy type fitting on the back, but all along I’ve been wondering if it might also have been some sort belt or harness adornment. Cavalry horses were even more lavishly bedecked than the average My Little Pony.

Aiden was joking that he keeps looking for the stone that goes with it every time he digs his vegetable patch, but I think he’s unlikely to find it for several reasons (apart from the obvious one of blind chance)

- The original artefact is bronze. People generally don’t mount precious stones in bronze, they use gold or silver. The best you could really hope for with this would be a low value stone like agate, or even glass.

-The more I think about it, the more I think the original “stone” may well have been organic. The snake is an amuletic symbol, and has strong apotrophaic value on it’s own, but that value could have been reinforced by setting a stone of percieved magical value, such as a toadstone or coral. Such a stone could easily have decayed in the ground, or the amulet have been discarded when the stone fell out because it lost some of it’s power.

-I think the orginal artefact was probably discarded, rather than lost per se, because the stone was missing. Once the stone was gone the bronze would have minimal value to it’s wealthy owner (ongoing research by the University of Cambridge is showing that Roman Aldborough was just as posh as it’s modern counterpart, if not more so). The stone in that case could well be miles away.

- Alternately, the artefactmight have been discarded because the pin was broken, in which case a stone of any value would have been prised out for re use elsewhere.

I will now stop thinking like an archaeologist (who knew any of that training had sunk in) because my brain hurts, and proceed with the pretty.

I asked Aiden’s permission to make a replica because I thought it wowuld be fun to wear to the event. Not having any toadstones to hand I’ve used some replica roman glass millifiori gaming counters. I bought them years ago from Mark and David - my very small art collection also contains two of thier replica millifiori dishes, aren’t they pretty?

Alas, due to the presence of the little cat of ultimate violence, they’re living in the cupboard at the moment, but I take them out and admire them from time to time. I keep telling Gareth I want a glass shelf in the kitchen window where I can display my prettiest glass.

Anyway, I don’t have any bronze, so I made mine out of silver. The first one wasn’t quite right (bending this thick wire is tricky)
aidenssnake eye

I honestly thought this brooch was going to be another installment in my series of jewels that are ugly but kind of interesting, but I have to admit I quite like both of these. It’s odd because snakes are really not my thing, I think with this first one I really like the eyeball in the middle.

However, I have just noticed there’s a little spot that needs taking off with a water of ayre stone (a problem because I was looking for those earlier today and can’t find them) because barreling often highlights minor faults.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to barrel polish these as I’ve nver set glass before. Su from tillermans beads said that at worst the glass would get an opaque sheen like seaglass. However her theory that Mark and David use harder glass proved true, because as you can see the glass is still shiny after an hour and a half.

I must admit to cheating though. I really wasn’t confident about that sunray stone setting, so I did dab a little bit of completely inauthentic epoxy resin to hold the glass in better. I think there’s possiblya design flaw behind the original piece’s lack of stone.

The second attempt came out much better in terms of faithfulness to the original
aidens blue eye

There really wasn’t a lot of room on the back to put any sort of spring into the pin, so both have ended up with a fairly primitive bent pin instead. I had to touch solder the backs, and I have to admit touch soldering terrifies me because when I was learning silversmithing I burned myself rather badly touch soldering something – I concentrated so hard on getting the solder part right I didn’t realise the blow torch flame was centred on my thumb.

I will wear the blue one on Sunday, but eyeball snake is going to need a new home.

My main achievement working on these was actaully the simple act of changing the cd in my workshop stereo. I get so caught up in what I’m doing that I just press play without thinking. I’ve been listening to the same Pink cd for almost 18 months. Ok, so I changed one PInk cd for another PInk cd, but at least I changed it.

Note to self – stop eating Fabs whislt typing. the bobbly bits fall off and get lodged under the keys…

petrus christus gown

•July 16, 2014 • 27 Comments

Ok, so I give in. Gareth and I are never going to get round to taking another picture of the Petrus Christus dress, and it’s been in the local press already sooo…

(the reason I put it off was that although gareth loved the photo, we had to drive to the church and the front of the dress is slightly twisted)


for those of you new round here, this was a major project last year, based mainly on a Petrus Christus painting.
There was the headress

the gown belt

the necklace

and a placket

there’s also a gorgeous silk kirtle, but I can’t find the post about that


•July 11, 2014 • 61 Comments

Sorry I haven’t got a picture for you. I meant to take one of my stand at the imc yesterday, which looked fab, but forgot about it until I was all but packed away.

I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a stitch along here. I was thinking week one, stitch lesson and the first ( small) picture. Week two, second picture. Week three, braids and tassels, and week four, putting them together to make a medieval purse.

It would be free to participate ( so you could use whatever you wanted/had lying around)and I will figure out how to make a PDF to make the pattern easily accessible, but I would also offer a kit with fabric marked with the design, a lining, and veg dyed wools for sewing and decorations.


Would anyone like to play?

Would anyone want the kit?

What interval between posts- a week, two weeks, or monthly? ( bear in mind the projects will be small and easily achievable)

When would be a good time to start- I was thinking maybe September because people get so busy over summer


•July 5, 2014 • 8 Comments

I went for the nice oak frames with simple cream mounts again
I was a bit lazy and didn’t bother remounting griffin, so he is the only one not monogrammed, but I did sign the back.

Baby is very flattered that so many of you wanted to give home to his little baby siblings


And the cows arse bishop is feeling smug because he already has a new home. Of course he always feels smug anyway because he has god on his side…


And the politician beast feels smug because his frame is bigger than anyone else’s. He needs a bigger frame to accommodate his enormous ego.


And I took a better picture of the little face mounted up. I’m pleased with how he came out on the velvet

image And then there’s this trio of misfits. Poor bunny had to do without a mount because some idiot ordered the wrong sized frame.


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