A Hat for a Herald

This was my entry for Calontir’s online Kingdom Arts and Sciences event.  Due to the pandemic, the normal championship was cancelled and so I threw together something I’d been thinking about for a while. 



In the SCA, it is fairly easy to pick out a herald on official business.  They either wear a tabard with the arms of the kingdom/local group, or they wear the crossed gold trumpets on a field of green.  In history, most heralds were attached to royal families or courts and would have worn tabards much the way we do.  But how did Venice identify her heralds when there was no royal family, just an elected official?

With a hat!

The Doge, the leader of Venice, was able to choose up to 50 comandatori, or heralds.  These heralds acted as town criers announcing law changes and important information in addition to other duties.  They wore a blue cape and carried a rod or staff on all official business.  At some point (the date varies according to the source), the rods were replaced by a red hat with a gold badge of Saint Mark – the patron saint of Venice.


Image of a Comandatori from “The Clothing of the Renaissance World,”

One of my driving passions in the SCA is heraldry.  As I am preparing to step up as the principle herald for Calontir, the Gold Falcon Herald, I thought I would finally get around to looking like a Venetian herald.  As I had planned on entering Championships this year, this was a last minute project I picked off my “To Do” list.

These hats are hand sewn.  One is red wool blend, the other is purple cotton flannel.  I chose these fabrics because it was what I had in the house.  The wool was left over from another project.  The stitches used were running stitch and whipstitch.  I whipped the lining and outer fabrics together, then sewed the top of the hat to the sides with a running stitch.  There are occasional backstitches included.  Once the two pieces were attached, I used running stitch to close the brim.  I flat felled the brim seams.

On the red hat, I trimmed the lining and folded up the bottom hem before I started sewing the hat together.  The hem is done in whipstitch.  On the purple hat, I forgot that step until I was sewing the two ends together so the join isn’t as smooth as I would like.  As the cotton flannel is more prone to fraying, I folded it under before whipstitching the hem into place.


Inside of hats.  I enjoy hand sewing, but that doesn’t make it always pretty.

I attached a small axe pendant to the red hat as a symbol of my local group, Axed Root, in place of Saint Mark.  I used a falcon charm on the purple hat as the symbol of Calontir.  The charm will be replaced later on once I make a different badge pendant – possibly the Gold Falcon seal.  Again, I used what I had in the house due to the quick nature of this project.

If I have the time before the step up, I will make another hat in purple wool (if I can find it).  My husband and I have ideas for medallions/badges that we will be making in the next couple of weeks.


“The Clothing of the Renaissance World,” by Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret Rosenthal.

“Venice: A Documentary History, 1450 – 1630,” edited by David Chambers and Brian Pullan

“Festival Architecture,” by Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy.

“Ceremonial Entries in Early Modern Europe: The Iconography of Power,” edited by JR Mulryne, Maria Ines Aliverti, Anna Maria Testaverde


Posted in Crafting, Garb, SCA, Sewing | Leave a comment

Replicating Beads from Grave T 16136

The following is the write up for my entry into Calontir’s Kingdom Arts and Sciences Tri-Level competition in July, 2019.

Beads Made to Size:
Replicating the Beads from Grave T 16136 at Vaernes in Norway
Zaneta Baseggio, Axed Root


The goal of this project was to recreate a particular set of beads as closely as possible regarding the size and decoration.  Modern materials and tools were used as the focus of the project is the size of the beads, not how they were manufactured.

This project began with my desire to recreate a set of extant beads to size. I have heard several times that the Norse only had small beads and that those in the SCA with large beads on their Norse strands were “doing it wrong.”  Therefore, I went looking for information on the size of beads.

For this project, I wanted to replicate a specific grave find so that I would not be cherry picking from the findings on the sizes of beads.  Unfortunately, a large number of the finds do not include the sizes of each bead when they are pictured together. My original focus piece for this project had a range that included measurements for the smallest and largest beads – everything else I would have to figure out myself.

On July 5, 2019, an article was published that took another look at the finds from grave T 16136 in Norway – my main focus area when I play at being Norse.  The grave find included textiles, metalwork, and beads. Brooches in the find were dated to 850 – 900 AD. The article included not only museum photos of the beads, but personal private photos of all the beads from both top and side.  Each bead had measurements and descriptions included.

The article was everything I was looking for and then some.

In addition, the article includes links to the museum pages on every bead.  While the museum pages are in Norwegian, Google did a decent job of translating for me.


Separated by magazine audit. Original description: 17 beads of glass and 1 of amber. Of these, 1 is of black glass with no fused decor, especially large, 4 cm wide, 2 cm high. It has created a quaint decor around the edge by transverse rows of three elliptical depressions in each, an ornament reminiscent of the ring chain. The pearl is obviously very worn and therefore probably old when it was closed down in the grave. Thus, both holes at the wear of the cord are pulled up towards the edge, so that the opening on both sides is almost pear-shaped. It is probably also due to the wear and tear that both sides now only see weak traces of recesses, which, like those around the edge, have also been placed here. These are no longer parallel, but wear considerably down to the part of the edge which, after wear in the hole opening, turns out to have turned up. Then there are 2 several smaller beads, but larger than the others, of blackish glass with the decoration of white rings on a blue field. Of the rest, 8 with different decor, 4 of green and yellowish glass without decor, 1 small pearl of amber and 2 “clay beads”

Note: There are measurements and photos in the original article. They were included in my printed copy for the competition but have not been included here – one: it was a lot of formatting, two: they aren’t my photos to share on the internet. I highly suggest you check out the original article.

Bead Creation:
Glass beads are typically made by melting glass at a high heat and winding it around a metal rod that has been coated with a clay based substance.  This clay is called a ‘bead release’ and forms a barrier between the hot metal and the hot glass – hot metal sticks to hot glass. The release will break and wash away, allowing the bead to be removed from the mandrel (metal rod) once it has finished cooling.

Glass needs to be cooled slowly to avoid breaking or thermal shock.  Thermal shock is the reason you should not take a pyrex baking dish directly from the freezer to a hot oven.  Glass will shatter and break when it is exposed to rapid changes in temperature. Modernly, I used a crockpot filled with vermiculite to cool my beads.  The vermiculite holds the heat of the glass and allows it to cool slowly.

Glass can be shaped using tools made of metal, graphite, or soapstone.  For this project, I use marvers (flat pieces of graphite or metal) and mashers (tweezers with flat pads on the ends) to shape the beads.  In period, they may have used soapstone molds and marvers as well as metal tools.

Bead Creation in Period:
The extant beads were probably made over a clay furnace fueled by charcoal.  Air was forced into the furnace through bellows. The extant traces of furnaces have an opening on top where bead makers may have worked.  Metal trays with sides and handles have been found in glass workshop debris. These trays may have been used to keep the finished beads warm after creation in order to cool them down slowly.

Creating the Beads:
A list of tools and glass colors is available at the end.

I hadn’t fully thought about the size of any of the beads except for the large black bead.  However, when I sat down to start, I realized that almost all of these beads were larger than I normally work with.   After working with that first bead, I realized I had my work cut out for me.

In order to make sure I was getting close to the size of the beads while working, I ordered two sets of calipers/micrometers.  I set one to the height and the other to the width. While forming the bead, I would check the size with the calipers and add additional glass if needed.  I used mashers and my graphite marver to move the glass as needed to form the correct size and shape.



While I got close to the size of the extant beads, I did not match the sizes exactly.  I seem to have ended up one to two millimeters short on many of the beads – especially the decorated beads.  When I created the decorated beads, I left the base bead a little short before I added decoration. My line of thought was that the additional glass from the decoration would make the bead bigger.  When I figured out that was wrong, it was too late to add more glass. As I ran out of time, I was unable to go back and make another run at the undersize beads.

The wavy lines were made with ribbon stringers that I made.  I haven’t used ribbon stringers in ages, so they ended up messier than I would have wanted.  But I ran out of time to go back and try again. I also ran out of stringer.


The millefiori was also made for a previous project.

The large black bead took an hour and a half on my minor burner torch.  It also took two and a half glass rods. When I would get toward the end of the rod, I would heat and wrap the ends into the bead.  So this bead is made of two complete glass rods plus at least half of a third. It is still a couple millimeters small.

The design on the large black bead was made with the end of a butter knife.  The bead was allowed to cool slightly and then one spot was heated up. I used the edge of the knife to make the indentation.  The bead was then warmed slightly and another spot heated. This continued until the design was completely around the bead.


Changes from the Extant Beads:
The two ‘clay’ beads referenced in the museum write up are likely the small red and orange beads.  They may have been faience beads – a style of beadwork where the beads are formed by rolling and shaping a clay/glass material and then firing them until solid.  However, the main article treated these beads as glass and so did I. In fact, until I read through the museum translation, I thought that those beads were glass.  They look like a lot of other extant beads I have seen.

Instead of amber, I have substituted a glass bead.  I used a color called ‘Ghee’ that creates an amberish color.  This bead was not made for this project, but it happened to be in my box of beads and was about the right size.

The design on the large black bead was not a change I made intentionally.  When I finally got the bead to size, I did not look at the picture to double check the pattern.  It is close but not exact to the extant pattern. Given that it took an hour and a half, and two and a half rods of glass to make, I did not have time to go back and redo the bead.

This project has stretched my skills and made me realize I need to practice my large bead skills. I have gotten so used to creating donut shaped beads that I am not used to dealing with the flatter disks this project called for.  Overall, I am happy with the size and shape of these beads. I plan on revisiting the large black bead as a friend has requested one for herself. I have a theory that it may take less time to create the bead if I used shorter pieces instead of a full rod.  I would also like to have a second one of my own to use as a spindle whorl.

I hope that this project has reached my goal of expanding our understanding of bead sizes in the Viking world.


“The Woman in the Mound, A New Interpretation of Grave T 16136 at Værnes,” by Hilde Thunem. http://urd.priv.no/viking/vernes.html?fbclid=IwAR1K6twKzbTHwCxAqOJRdbgcAj-E2ig8nVvHqJHFjjYF9_wadG4r5-KMsTg

University Museums Objects / Artifacts website, NTNU Science Museum. http://www.unimus.no/artefacts/vm/180795/?f=html

Dark Ages Recreation Company website:

Tools Used:
Nortel Minor Burner – Propane and oxygen surface mix torch
Mandrels – Stainless steel rods
Bead Release – Dip and Go.  Clay based substance that coats the mandrel to allow the bead to be removed when cool
Marver – Graphite paddle used to shape the beads
Masher – Stainless steel tweezers with square ends
Butter Knife – Used to create designs in beads
Vermiculite – It helps to slows the cooling process.

Colors Used:
Transparent Yellow – Electric Yellow (Striking) Transparent, Vetrofond (791069)
Transparent Green – Grass Green Light Transparent, Vetrofond (791020)
Transparent Blue – Blue Intense Transparent, Effetre (591057)
Transparent Teal – Teal Light Transparent, Effetre (591026)
Opaque Black – Tuxedo, Creation is Messy (511872)
Opaque Orange – Clockwork, Creation is Messy (511229)
Opaque Red – Ladybug Ltd Run, Creation is Messy (511120)
Opaque White – Unknown.  Possibly Peace or White Pastel Effetre (591204)
Opaque Yellow – Yellow Bright Acid, Effetre (591416)
Millefiori – Ladybug, Peace, and Lapis Light Pastel, Effetre (591240)

Posted in Crystal, Lampworking, SCA | Leave a comment

Calculators and Counting Boards

The following is my write up for my latest A&S project which I put together for Calontir’s Queen’s Prize Tournament in February 2019.


I am not much of a woodworker, a metalworker, or a mathematician.  This premise for this project is not how these things were made or how they calculate.  Instead, this project focuses on the fact that these things existed. People have needed a handy way of counting throughout the ages.  Included here are three ways they did so – the suanpan or Chinese abacus, the counting board, and the Roman abacus or pocket calculator.

“I cannot do’t without counters. Let me see…”
Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale, Act 4 Scene 3



I am not good at math.  So why did I enter a project about math?

At one of our local SCA meetings this summer, I bemoaned my lack of creativity and lack of a glass project to make.  Giovanni Loredan, a friend and fellow Canton member, said that I should create an abacus. I made a face at him and resolved to add it to my list.  I thought making a number of beads the same shape and size would be a good exercise for me. So I pulled up my trusty friend Google and started looking for what an abacus would look like in the middle ages.

A search for medieval abacus led me to the suanpan – an Asian style of abacus that started in China.  The suanpan has two decks to represent heaven and earth. The upper deck – heaven – has two beads. The lower deck – earth – has five.  There is no set amount of beads, but they typically have at least seven or more rows.

While the suanpan was used in Asia, counting boards were more common in Europe.  These boards had lines drawn upon them and counters were moved along the lines and spaces like beads on an abacus.   Counting boards could also be drawn in the dirt and small pebbles used as the counter pieces. Over time, these counters evolved and turned into intricate coins called jettons.

The Romans, however, landed somewhere between the two.  They created a pocket calculator. I’m fairly certain they didn’t have pockets, but they created a hand held device that functioned like an abacus and was smaller than an index card.  Romans also used counting boards, of course. The pebbles they used were called “calculi.”

A passing comment made during a bookbinding class sent me even further down the rabbit hole of math and accounting.  Did you know that double entry accounting “started” in Italy? I certainly didn’t. It definitely didn’t start there, but the man who gets called the “Father of Accounting,” Luca Pacioli, was from Italy.  Pacioli published a textbook on the double-entry method of accounting that was widely used. His Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalità was published in Venice in 1494.

Pacioli also used a novel new way of writing numbers in his book.  In addition to the Roman numerals that were commonly used, he also used the Hindu-Arabic numerals that we use today.  Hindu-Arabic numerals were not new in 1494 but they were not commonly used. The Guild of Florentine Money Changers banned the numerals in 1299.  In 1520, the German town of Frieburg refused to accept accounts as legal proof unless they were written in Roman numerals or written out as words.

Every culture and civilization has had their methods of reckoning numbers and keeping accounts.  While the versions may be different, they are all similar in their purpose of helping humans calculate.

The Bead Abacus or The Suanpan:


The bead abacus is probably what most people think of when they hear the word ‘abacus.’  It has beads on wires or dowels set into a frame. I have chosen to model my version on the 2-5 bead Chinese suanpan.

For my abacus, I strung glass beads on thin mandrels cut to length.  I used a piece of square wood from the hardware store for the frame. I made the glass beads, cut the wood, and cut the mandrels.  I glued the center beam to the uprights after drilling holes through the beam. Once that was set, I slid the glass beads onto one side and set the mandrels into holes drilled halfway through the bottom bar.  The uprights were then glued to the bottom bar. The remaining beads were slid onto the mandrels, the mandrels were fitted into holes halfway through the top bar, and then the bar was glued into place. I left it to cure and then nailed the pieces together for added stability.


I made a few changes to my version of the suanpan than what would have been done in period.  I was not able to find an extant example of a suanpan but all of the information that I have found says that the beads would have been made of wood rather than glass.  The mandrels the beads move on would also have been made of wood.

I did find one extant example of a porcelain abacus from the Ming dynasty circa 1522-1566 ad.  It has space for multiple wooden rods and beads to be suspended in the frame.

Counting Board:


Counting boards were probably the most common form of counting in Europe.  Even though they were common, there are not that many examples left to us. Given their use as tables, my personal belief is that the markings that identified them as counting tables wore off over the years and they were repurposed.  A counting board didn’t need to be anything more than simple lines etched into the dirt with pebbles for counters, afterall.

The Romans called the pebbles calculi, which means ‘little pebbles.’  I found it funny that our high tech calculators are basically named after little pebbles found on the ground.

As time passed, the pebbles evolved from stones to tokens.  These tokens could still be made of stone but they were also made of glass and metal.  The Romans had flat glass discs that may have been used with their counting tables and so I have created a few for this demonstration.

Metal counters were called jettons later on.  In the 16th century, jettons were made to imitate the coins of the time.  Often, they had to be pierced or have some other obvious design so they could not be passed off as coins.  The designs often reflected the monarch of the time or the counting house they belonged to. They functioned like arcade tokens in modern times – good only for a specific purchase and not exchangeable for money.

French Jetton

I based this counting board on the Strasbourg table in the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame in Strasbourg, France.  The table is wood and the design was done with bone inlay. As I am not a woodworker, I chose woodburning for my design rather than inlay work.  To make the board, I had my husband cut it to size. Then, I sanded the board and burned in the design. Once that was done, I coated it with linseed oil.

The symbols on the board were a bit hard to decipher on the original.  In “The History of the Abacus,” I found the markings written out as Lib, s, de, and f.  The book states that this relates to pounds, shillings, pence, and farthings. The vertical lines are Roman numbers.

Had I been paying attention when putting this together, I would have created a lip around the edges of my board like the extant piece.  There are references to counting boards with lips to keep any contents from falling off. I did make an attempt at inlaying copper on a second board.  But it was the same material as the woodburned board and it just was not happening.

Roman Abacus or Pocket Calculator:


This little metal device was the whole reason for this entry.  While I had been challenged to create a bead abacus, I felt like I had to make this once I found out it existed.

Unfortunately, no extant examples exist.

There are several copies in museums that have been made to the specifications of the originals.  These ‘bead-frame computers’ were not in common usage since only a small number of these devices have been found.  “The History of the Abacus” states that there are three in museums, another was described but is now lost, and there might have been a fifth.  All of the devices were similar in description and size – and all small enough to fit in your hand. That is pretty much all that is known about the devices except that they were definitely made in the Roman era.

I made this device to the dimensions attributed to the device in the museum Bibliothèque Nationale in France.  This was the only device where the dimensions were listed. The website also shows the back of the device and how the buttons were held in place.

My first attempt was with 16 gauge copper but it ended up being a pain to work with.  So, I switched gears and decided to use the copper we had hanging out in the garage. The garage copper was the reason I decided to go with copper instead of bronze which is what the ‘extant’ one is made out of.

I cut the copper with shears, drilled pilot holes, and then created the slots with a piercing saw.  On the second attempt, I used a larger drill bit and discovered that I cannot cut straight lines very well.  For the third attempt, I used a smaller drill bit and filed the slots to the right size after cutting them. I tried to work harden the piece on an anvil with the flat part side of a ball peen hammer.

The buttons are copper rivets and the washers are also copper. I softened the rivets by heating them up in my lampworking torch and then dropping them in water.  The rivets were cut to size with a pair of pliers. I used a ball peen hammer to peen over the backside of the rivets.

The first few buttons were done with the rivets resting on an anvil.  That flattened the head and mushroomed the rivet too much. One of the buttons is stuck.  We were able to loosen up one of the stuck buttons, but the other just won’t move. After that, I moved down to the large tree stump that the anvil was sitting on while I was in the ISU Workspace.  When I was at home, I used the wooden stump made of 2×4’s that we use for coining. The wood was hard enough that it would let me move the metal and yet soft enough to not deform the heads. The rivets definitely made their marks on the wood, however.

The marks on the device are also from “The History of the Abacus.”  I engraved them onto the copper with a dremel tool. The symbols are below.

M    =    Million???
(((I)))    =     Hundred Thousand
((I))    =    Ten Thousand
(I)    =    Thousand*
C    =     Hundred
X     =     Ten
I     =     One

While writing this documentation, I have realized that I etched the wrong symbol for the Thousand place.  It should be what is above instead of the odd symbol I drew. The symbol is written in the book in a paragraph just above where it makes reference to a couple symbols on the bead-frame.

As I tried to figure that symbol out, I have now thoroughly confused myself as to what the M stands for.  I don’t math.

“His bookes and his bagges many on
He layth beforn him on his counting board.”
Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, “The Shipmannes Tale”


I really enjoyed this project.  I may have enjoyed it more because I avoided learning how to use the calculators.  But the research was full of interesting facts and I found myself learning new skills.

These items are bound for use at demos and will live in our demo kits.  I am pretty sure that I will be making more bead abacuses and Roman calculators.  They were fun to put together and I’m quite happy with the way they turned out. My skills in metalworking can only get better from here.

I hope that they make other people giggle as much as I did.


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Beginning Glass Bangles

At Lilies War this summer, I listened to two Russian personas talk about where to find glass bangles.  And, me being me, seeing other people interested in something on my ‘To Do’ list kicked the project from where it languished at the bottom to the top.  I had been interested in trying to figure out how to make glass bangles but thought that I couldn’t with my current set up. We can’t run the kiln in the garage with everything else turned on as it overloads the circuits… and then my neighbor’s wall shakes since they have possession of the fuse box for all four garages.

But I thought I would give it a try and see if something could be done.

Bietrix started us off with a great video she found on Youtube where the glass artist bends glass over an aerosol (?!) can in order to make rockers for a small glass rocking horse.  I had bought a bracelet mandrel so we didn’t have to use something that had a flammable warning on it.

I sat down at the torch, pulled a thick twisted stringer and attempted to drape it around the mandrel…. And shot pieces of glass across the garage.  So I pulled another and it did the same thing.

I managed to get about half the curve I was going for before the glass cooled down.  I ended up breaking the glass by trying to force it into position when it was too cool.

Ah well.  People keep telling me that I shouldn’t expect to be perfect with a first attempt.

I decided to take the slightly rounded stringer and work on the basics in small scale.  Instead of trying to form the bangle in one go, I heated specific spots and bent them into position.  Heat control is a thing I may need some more practice with. I tried to round out a couple spots and ended up making the shape worse than when I started.


After shaping the bangles, I tucked them into a vermiculite filled crockpot that wasn’t turned on.  I’m not sure if that will help them survive longer than if I had just laid them on the table, but none of them were cracked when I pulled them out.

For a first attempt, I don’t think they turned out too bad.  Now, to work on the second attempt…



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The Sinister Canton Goes to the Fair

The Canton has been experimenting…again.  This time, we went to the Iowa State Fair. Well, our projects did.

We have been flirting with different ideas to promote the SCA in different ways and different venues than we have in the past in an effort to reach more potential members.  We’ve done a different sort of demo than normal at the Des Moines Maker Faire, we’re working on a demo/exhibit day at the local library, and we’ve hung up fliers in neighboring towns.

The state fair has creative arts, fiber arts, woodworking, and all sorts of categories to enter your work into.  Jewelry, costumes, quilting, weaving, spinning, preserves, flower arraigning, Lego sculpture, photography… the list goes on and on.  So a few of us decided that we would try to put the SCA name on projects that would draw eyeballs and see if we gained any new members.

The state fair isn’t small.  There was an estimated attendance of 1,130,071 people last year.  It’s the fair that the musical, State Fair, was based on.

Here’s a blurb about the fair from their website:

The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and unduplicated.

While we entered as a recruitment experiment, we ended up placing in multiple categories!

The overall thought after the fair is that while it is a fun thing to do, it isn’t really a recruitment venue.  There’s no place to explain the entry or even write down what it is. You get a card with your name or group name on it that doesn’t always get displayed.  There’s no website or contact info and no title of the entry.

Next year, we might experiment with putting the calon cross on most of the entries as a way of tying them together.  But that still leaves no contact information. I’m thinking the State Fair might turn into a fun group building activity but will be left off our list for future recruitment activities.

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A Spindle Whorl, Part 1

While I was trying to figure out what to enter into the State Fair, one of the categories caught my attention – Bead: Non-Jewelry.  What could I make for that category?

Could I make a large veil pin?  Well, that’s kinda jewelry and not a bead.

Could I make a set of glass game tokens?  Those definitely aren’t beads.

Oh wait.  I could make a spindle whorl!

Whorls are the round disks on spindles which you can use to make yarn.  There are examples of glass beads which could have been spindle whorls found in Roman and Viking excavations.  One of my friends sent me a section of a book where they discuss the Roman finds and state that they are a “little light” compared to most spindle whorls.  So we could be completely wrong in our assumptions on these beads – but it fits what I want to do, so I’m running with the idea.

I decided to start with some thick mandrels and regular glass to see if it was even possible to create a large enough bead with my lampworking set up.  I used an unknown green transparent glass to try to match an extant example that I had measurements for – plus, it’s pretty. I used Candy Corn and Moss Agate (I think) for  two others as I experiment.


I had a hard time getting the 104 COE glass into the shape I wanted.  I was going for a couple different things, but they all ended up turning into large beads.  I managed to get the measurements for the green one just about right.

Here are the measurements and weights that I ended up with:

Green:  24mm, 12mm, 11 grams
Orange: 15mm, 12mm, 10 grams
Dark: 22mm, 12mm, 8 grams

I took the proto-spindles to a friend’s house for experimentation.  I’m a very beginner spinner and my friend invited an expert. The expert played with them and verified that the spindles could actually be used and weren’t just something to look at.  Well, the green one could be used. The others were too light and wobbly to really spin a good yarn.

I also put the spindles into the hands of a random person at a recent officer’s meeting.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to get her name, but she had been spinning during Amon’s meeting and he made me hand the stuff over.  She suggested that there might be evidence of adding more beads/whorls to a spindle for additional weight. The spindle she was using was super light and tiny and oh my gosh I wanted one.

Someone, probably my husband, suggested trying some of the recycled bottle glass for my next attempt at whorls.  I am super glad of that suggestion.

The blue vodka bottle that was already shattered in the garage was a pain to melt.  I’m used to making small beads, not large ones, and I didn’t have my torch dialed in right.  If you look carefully, you can see where I burnt the glass. But because it was slower to melt and stiffer to work with, I managed to get a pretty flat top and bottom.  The measurements are just about spot on with what the extant pieces measure.


With a piece of oak dowel, the blue spindle weighs 28 grams – an ounce exactly.

Now, the goal is to see if the green wine or jager bottles will be as heavy as the vodka bottle….

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Piemas Round Up

Whoot!  The Twelve Days of Piemas are drawing to a close and I can go back to not looking at pie dough for a while.  While I do love meat pies, the whole family was about ready to be done with pie by the last day.  Maybe next year I will make smaller pies.  There will definitely be a next  year, though, and we will definitely be putting some of these pies into our regular dinner rotation.

Amon wants to take another run at the pizza pot pie.

For the last day, I made small raspberry jam tarts, with the recipe found here.


Here are  the pies that weren’t blogged about in all their glory.  If there was a recipe from the internet used, I have linked it to the pie name.

Day 6 – Fried chocolate handpies

Day 7 – Eggroll hand pies

Day 8 – Buffalo chicken pot pie

Day 9 – Ganache and cheesecake pie

Day 10 – Cherry pies


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Tourtiere Meat Pie

My blogging has gone by the wayside, but I have been keeping up with Piemas 2016.  Yesterday was the only day I didn’t make a pie, but that will be corrected today with the making of two pies.

The creator of Piemas made a tourtiere early on in the twelve days and I had to google the word to figure it out.  The recipe looked pretty yummy, so I added it to my list.  Here is the website I pulled my recipe from.  It’s basically beef, pork, onion, and mashed potatoes put together with a couple of different spices.  We didn’t have any poultry seasoning on hand when I went looking for it, so I used an italian blend that hopefully isn’t too far off.


While I enjoyed it, especially with Branston Pickle, I think next time I might need to up my seasoning a bit.  It was a bit bland but Amon said he could definitely taste the cinnamon and nutmeg in it.



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Pork Pie

Mmm, meat pies.  I do love meat pies.  Medieval pies, modern pies, pasties, etc, it doesn’t really matter.  The recipe I found for tonight is called ‘Easy Pork Pie’ and it is a pretty simple recipe.  I could go for simple for this fifth day of Piemas.


Given my tendencies to make pork pies, I sort of followed the recipe and then mixed it up just a little bit.  Since we had it on hand, I used herbes de provence oil to soften the onions.  I almost substituted cinnamon and ginger for the seasoning, but we decided to give the new mix a try – allspice with a bit of nutmeg.  I’m not normally a fan of nutmeg but there was so little in this recipe that it wasn’t a big deal.  I also decided to make one big pie to cut up for lunches tomorrow rather than making smaller hand pies.

Since I varied the amounts a little bit to fit what was in the house, here is the recipe:

1 lb ground breakfast sausage
1 small onion, diced fine
2 TBSP Herbes de Provence oil
1/2 tsp allspice
Pinch of nutmeg
1 egg beaten, for wash
Store-bought (or handmade) pie crust

Cook the onion in the oil until softened.  Add the onion, allspice, and nutmeg to the ground sausage and mix well.  Fit a pie pan with a bottom crust, pat the meat mix into the pan, and then cover with the other crust.  Wash the top of the pie with the beaten egg, cut your vents, and bake at 425 F for 30 minutes.

How did it turn out?  Pretty good so far.  We made it for lunch for tomorrow.  But the little bit I fussed out of the middle to make sure it was done was yummy.  Hopefully the whole pie will be just as yummy.

Here’s the website I cribbed from:


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Torta Bianca

Wednesday nights are typically our local SCA meeting nights.  That means there is isn’t much time for making pie.  But I managed to scrape a bit of time together in order to try out a new recipe – Torta Bianca, or ginger cheesecake, for the fourth day of Piemas.


This recipe is from a 15th century Italian book, Libro de arte coquinaria by Maestro Martino de Como.  The recipe sounded pretty simple… but I have never made a cheesecake that needed to be baked.  With this recipe, I was pretty sure I messed something up at various times.  And I’m sure I probably did somewhere.

Anyway.  I started off with one website and ended up referring to another with the recipe because there was a piece missing from one.  I ordered The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, & Silvano Serventi, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

I wanted to take the torta to my meeting for taste testing, so I made small tarts instead of a large pie.  The small tarts took about thirty to forty minutes to bake, a little more than half the time of a large pie.  I used store-bought pie crust.

The general consensus was that these were yummy, but they weren’t really cheesecake.  And there wasn’t much ginger flavor to them.  I think next time I make them, I might follow the Medieval Cuisine recipe a bit more closely – or wait to see what my new book says to do. 🙂

Here are the sites I cribbed from.  Mostly, I used the Bay Rose recipe.

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