Archive for July, 2011

A two-fer: 22, Make a lucet, and 23, make a lucet braid

I’ve never tried lucet cord braiding before, but I’ve seen it done, I’ve hung out with people talking about it, it’s something you really can’t escape in the SCA.

For those who don’t know, a lucet  is a two (or more) pronged thingie with a hole in the middle, for the making of braid with.  Prior to today, I actually thought the cord was called a lucet, but it turns out that I was wrong, the tool is the lucet, and the cord is simply named after the tool that made it.

I actually made two lucets today.  The first was from bone, which broke while I was polishing it.  I was thinking of sticking it back together with superglue, but it’s going to have to deal with a fair amount of tension from the cording, so I may simply transform the remnants into naalbinding needles.  The second is from cedar, and took me much less time.

A note to anyone who’s never worked in wood but intends to at some point:  stay away from cedar.  It’s a crap wood.  I have a bunch of it because it was cheap and I was ignorant.  It’s too soft to be of use for anything, so I’m using it on stuff I don’t mind breaking.  That includes this lucet.  Leave it to pencils and pretty panelling, it’s no good for anything else.

Lucet + cord

The braid is produced by first running the thread through the hole, then wind the thread around the prongs twice in a figure 8 pattern.  The lower loops get pulled off the prongs over the upper loops, then another figure 8 loop gets added, tightening as you go.  It forms a square braid.  I’m still working on getting the tension right, but I think I’ll be right as rain by this time tomorrow!

Breadth Challenge #21: Mouse Pouch

I completed my first mouse pouch today.

Actually, amend that to almost completed.  There’s a story there.

I spent the day at The Battle of Bottony Cross, an annual event held by the Barony of St Florian De La Riviere.  The current king, King Cornelius III, made a presentation to the newest member of the Mouseguard.  Unfortunately, he had left some items at home, including the mouse pouch he had intended to give out.  So I watched King Cornelius III give out his own belt pouch in lieu of a mouse pouch.

While the battle was going on, I had been keeping my hands busy with a mouse pouch, and had, only 20 minutes prior to court, just sewn in the lining.  I was terribly proud of my work:  a white felt mouse appliquéd onto a red felt pouch with blanket stitched white silk, his tail stitched in chain stitch, the cords of woollen braid I had finished on my trip to Stegby passing through eyelets stitched in red silk, and the cotton lining, stitched separately and added at the last so that it could be turned out easily (kids do tend to accumulate nasties in the corners of pouches, if my childhood is anything to go by).  The only thing it lacked was a means to attach it to the child… either a shoulder strap or a belt loop.

Immediately as court was finished, I went to my bag to retrieve the (almost) completed pouch.  It would not do to have our king losing his valuables for lack of a belt pouch.  It seemed almost to be fate.  So I presented it to him, sans belt loop, and explained the situation.  Luckily the lady next to him happened to be the mother of the boy who had just received his new commission, and she readily agreed to adding the necessary attachment.  I do believe our king was extremely grateful to be able to retrieve his pouch, especially as it seemed to be a rather exquisite (and sturdy) pouch.

This does leave me with the unfortunate situation of not having taken a photograph of the finished item.  However, good things come in threes, and I have another two pouches on the way.  The photograph below (taken from an angle, I’m afraid) is one of the upcoming pouches, as yet incomplete, but which can give a reasonable idea of how the first looks.

Mouseguard pouch #2, nearing completion

Breadth Challenge #20: Norse Treasure Necklace

I was going to write this post yesterday, but sadly I was distracted by the charms of John Barrowman as I caught up on old Torchwood episodes.

Today I have no such excuse, so I’m pleased to show you my entry for the Stegby Feast of Friendship Arts and Sciences competition, Norse Treasure Necklace division, which gained me a 2nd place.

Norse Treasure Necklace

I had a lovely amount of online research I’d done during the construction of this necklace, however, it all sits on a USB stick that I appear to have misplaced.  Saturday morning, just before leaving for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Warwick, rather than just printing it all out, I was frantically putting together a short documentation sheet to submit with my entry.

I think it looks pretty good, don’t you?

A lot of my necklace is based on two images:

Bookmount And Glass Bead Necklace

Carnelian And Crystal Necklace

Click the photos to be taken to the page they’re from.  I’ve also referred quite heavily on the observations posted here.

 When I made my necklace, I did it in the dark.  Not total darkness, just enough to make it difficult to determine colour.  This was so I could choose beads without being worried about how much they matched, they were sorted into dark/light, size, and shape.  I also worked hard to find as many badly made beads as possible.  Some time ago I chanced upon cheap containers of mixed beads, which were awful quality, but fabulous for this sort of thing.  I have broken beads, misshapen beads, conjoined beads, beads that look like they’ve dripped down the mandrel, beads with bits on them, beads that have flat spots that look like they’ve been put down onto a flat surface while they’re still soft.  It was so fun going through them all looking for the ones I’d never put into anything else.  Then of course, there are the other beads, the ones made of metal, amber, garnet, amethyst, black pearl, jade, and put onto wire.  I like those ones.  It was a trial trying to find bits of metal to put on, but eventually I found a button I could cut the back off and punch a hole in, and an old, silver cartouche pendant that I hadn’t worn in years.   Vikings went everywhere.  I figure Egypt is a possibility for hacksilver finds!

Now I just have to make a heap more viking garb to wear with my necklace!

Breadth Challenge #19: Four strand flat braid

This particular post was always supposed to be me crowing about the fact that I’ve taught my first class, but I’ve decided that doesn’t need to be counted in my challenge.  I did teach my first class, I’ve given away many small bottles of the resulting brew, but the challenge was all in the documentation rather than anything else.

I did not, however, come away from the Feast of Friendship with nothing to add to my challenge.  The wonderful thing about the SCA is the learning, and I’ve learned quite a lot this weekend.  I’ve learned that I can cobble together (barely) passable documentation in half an hour, even when I’ve lost my original resource notes (I will post up said documentation and my treasure necklace tomorrow).  I’ve watched fingerloop braiding, and will be searching for resources online to learn how to do it.  I’ve sat with Dimitri and gone over hat-making techniques, which I shall be attempting at some point in the near future.  And, springing from a dream I had the night before we left for the Feast, I’ve made my very first four-strand braid.

Four Strand Braid

I am in the process of making Mouse Pouches for our Mouse Guard recipients.  Of course, pouches need to be tied somehow, so I’ve been pondering on learning braid techniques for the past couple of weeks, but haven’t had the time to sit down and research.  So, of course, my brain has been ticking over it all for a while, and came up with a solution while I had my back turned.

I dreamt of threads that were attached to my fingers, three to each hand, where the threads from the index finger were moved to the threads on the opposing pinkie finger, then moved along.  The imagery was perfect for showing me where the strands needed to go.  The dream version would make a six-strand flat braid.  It’s easy enough to simplify that to four-strand, which is what I did, in the car, on the 2 1/2 hour drive to Warwick.  I worked a starting position with two strands of red on the interior, and a strand of white either side on the exterior, to produce that consistent arrow formation you can see on the photograph.

Four strand braid instructions


Breadth Challenge #18: On the Making of Ypocras

This is really better suited to be titled “teaching my first class”, however I’ve not taught the class yet, that’s going to happen in a couple of days time.  Really, this is about my first foray into properly documenting my methods to put together a leaflet for my class.

As I’ve said before, I do all of my research online.  That doesn’t necessarily make for the best research in the world, but if you look thoroughly enough, you can find some real gems on the internet, including primary sources.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon a couple of other people’s research on ypocras, and tracing their research back allowed me to work on information from four primary sources, and two secondary sources citing verbatim three primary sources I couldn’t find access to.

The following documentation is only designed for a hands on class, and is not designed to be an in depth expose of everything related to ypocras.  That’s research that’s going to wait for another day.  But I think this is a good, if brief, run-down of how to make it, and what its purpose was.


On the Making of Ypocras

(also known as hipocras, hippocras, hippocrass, ypocrasse, ypocras, hypocras, hyppocras, ipocras, ippocras)

by Pelagia Aldinoch

Ypocras is a drink that appears over a number of existing cook books. It is wine, either white or red, which is mulled with spices and sugar or honey, then stored. It was generally served cold, as an after-dinner drink, with accompanying sweets, and was promoted as a digestive aid.

Ypocras derives its name from Hippocrates, who, at the turn of the 5th century BC, developed a theory of medicine which placed human behaviours into four groups: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. This theory was later expanded upon by Galen, who mapped them to a matrix of hot/cold and dry/wet. The four temperaments: Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy, are expressions of an excess of any one particular humour. Much of the medicine conducted within medieval times was greatly concerned with keeping the humours in balance.

Unlike most recipes found within period, recipes for ypocras often have very precise measurements. This is because ypocras was considered to be medicinal. Personally, I am more concerned with taste than with how hot and wet each of the spices is. My own measurements are far less precise, as I’m still experimenting.

Additives used?

In the recipes I’ve seen, there have been numerous varieties of additives used. Ginger, white pepper, long pepper, graines (grains of paradise), canell (cassia), cinnamon, tornsole or tumsole (which I gather is a red colour agent, but I could be wrong about that one), spikenard, galangal, cloves, nutmeg, saffron, cardamom, musk mallow seed, mace, coriander, marjoram, musk, ambergris, almonds, lemon, beetroot, and milk all number amongst them. Not all of them are readily available in current times, though.

A Note on Bottling and Labelling

Bottling should always be done into sterilised bottles. There are plenty of sterilisation methods easily available, try taking a walk either down the baby aisle or in the brewing section of your supermarket to find cheap sterilisation liquids or tablets. There is no excuse for having something growing in your bottle that you didn’t plan for.

Labelling your product is important, and should be done the same day as you bottle. There are some basics which need to be on every bottle you produce, whether it’s ypocras, beer, or something as simple as lemon syrup.

  • Name of drink. A bottle without a label could be anything. It could be delicious and deserving of drinking, or it could be engine oil waiting to be discarded. So you need to state what it is.
  • Ingredients, in case you inadvertently try feeding your product to someone who has a deathly allergy to something you’ve included in your mix.
  • Bottling date, as you may have several batches on the go at one time. It tells you how much time it’s been resting, and it acts as a product recall code if you later find there’s something horrendously wrong with that batch.
  • Your name, because you never know where your bottle will travel. Wherever it goes, I know I would like them to be able to say “That Pelagia chick sure does brew a good drop! I should nominate her for an award…”

My recipe

Red wine I choose red wine over white mainly because I prefer the flavour. I’m currently using Golden Oak’s 4L casks of medium red. That’s because they’re the cheapest I have access to at the time of writing this. Don’t worry that you don’t like the taste of the wine, don’t waste a good wine on ypocras. The flavour is going to get modified heavily.
Honey Again, generic honeys are best. Flavoured honeys may taste great on toast, but do you really want your medieval drinks to taste like eucalyptus? Also, cost is very much a factor here. Honey is expensive. And the sweeter you want your ypocras to turn out, the more honey you’re going to need to use. Sugar is an acceptable substitute, as it is listed in a number of recipes, but it does affect the flavour of the end product.
Spices My current list of spices is as follows: ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, caraway seeds, nutmeg, and green peppercorns. Within period sources, these are most often described as powders. I tend to try not to use powders, however, as they tend to form a lot of sediment which takes a long time to settle out.

I use fresh ginger root, carefully peeled, and cut so that there is a large amount of surface area for the aromatics to pass into the wine.

I use cinnamon sticks, broken into a few large bits.

Of the other ingredients, the only one I use in powder form is nutmeg. The rest I gather together in a mortar and break open slightly.

Add wine to pot. It’s important to make sure your pot is big enough before you do this. Seriously.
Then add your honey.


My current recipe uses roughly 1 cup of honey, but this is subject to individual tastes. I’ve found that more is better than less.
Heat the wine/honey mix Using 4L at a time means that I can generally put the heat on high and not have to worry about it too much, but if you’re heating smaller amounts, be careful with the heat setting you use. You don’t want to boil your wine, it will lose its alcohol content, and you may get bitter notes through the wine that weren’t there previously.
Skim the liquid You will begin to see a white froth forming on the liquid as the impurities in the honey float to the surface. This needs to be skimmed off. I’ve found the best way to skim the liquid is with a sieve. Each time you skim the liquid, the sieve must be washed out with fresh water, otherwise you end up re-introducing the impurities back into the mix.
Take the liquid off the heat, then add the spices.


Stir the spices in, then cover the mix and leave it to cool overnight.
Strain and bottle The source I found for my original recipe suggested straining the liquid through 3 layers of muslin, which I did for my first few batches. Unfortunately, it led to a lot of sediment and long-term cloudiness. I have now taken to using coffee filters in many instances.

Ypocras benefits from long term storage, and will gain in flavour over time.


John Russell’s Boke of Nurture (1460)

The Booke of Kervinge and Sewing (London: 1508)

John French The Art of Distillation (London: 1653)

John Nott, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, (London: 1723)

The Forme Of Cury (1390)

Mss. Sloane 3690, ff 26b.
Massiolot’s ‘Le Confiturier Royal’ Paris (1791)

Breadth Challenge #17: A favour for my beloved

This is, sadly, the second favour that I’ve had to make for my beloved to fight in combat with.  The first (rather heavily embroidered) favour disappeared, along with his fighting shirt, from the fighter’s tent at Great Northern War, and has not turned up amongst lost property, nor has anyone responded to my plea sent out on the Shambles list.  Our belief is that it was accidentally packed with another fighters gear; one who left on the Saturday evening, or the Sunday, as my partner took a day off from fighting, and the disappearance wasn’t noticed until the Monday.

This left me feeling that I was under-represented on the field.  A ribbon just doesn’t cut the mustard as far as I’m concerned, he needs a favour that shouts out that he’s fighting for me.

So, I set out to create a new embroidery for him.  I have, in the time since the first embroidery was done, decided on charge and colours for my heraldry, and I’ve only got to re-submit my device (the first submission drew one conflict, so I’ve altered my design slightly), so I’ve used the charge I’ve decided upon, which won’t change, no matter how many heraldic permutations I have to wade through.

A token of my favour

This favour is made of a square of muslin, hemmed by hand.  A white scorpion, outlined in purple, is embroidered into the corner, and along two sides is a purple line of running stitch.  The favour was then folded and stitched at the back, so that a loop is formed.  This should secure the favour much more stoutly than my previous man-hankie sized one that simply tied onto his armour.  If this one disappears, it will be because someone took his favour belt.


Breadth Challenge #16: Hennin

I find myself rather suddenly in need of headwear for Abbey, my snood being elsewhere due to a miscommunication about garb I lent out.  So, last night I searched the internet for 15th Century headwear, intending to make something to fit with my 15th Century Italian gown.

I found the hennin,  many pictured on ladies wearing gowns very similar to the cut of my own.

The classic image of the princess wearing a pointy hat with a long, flowing scarf trailing from the tip is the example most people are familiar with.  Some hennins are portrayed as being conical, others as heart shaped, but the one I have made is a truncated cone.

I had absolutely no idea where to begin, so I searched Google for a “how to” guide, and found this.  Whoever wrote that guide is forever golden in my eyes, because it took me only a few hours to get a wearable hennin, and most of that was taken up in hand sewing.  After wearing it for the past 2 1/2 hours, I can quite honestly say it’s possibly the most comfortable headwear I’ve ever worn.

Hennin Components: clockwise from left, the cage, the sleeve, the comb, the scarf, and the U-needle

There are 5 pieces to this rather elaborate hat.

  • The comb, which sits around your head and is tied in the back to fit snugly.
  • The cage, which ties directly onto the comb.  This is the structural assembly that holds it all up.
  • The U-needle, which hooks onto the comb and allows for forward adjustment at any time you feel your hennin may be slipping backwards.
  • The sleeve, which fits over the cage and hides all that wire.
  • The scarf, to drape over the entire lot.

Me wearing my new piece of garb

The trickiest part in the entire thing is the cage, but a little perseverance will get you there eventually.  My hennin is slightly lopsided, but I don’t think anyone except me will ever look that closely at it to notice.

%d bloggers like this: