Pointy Hats!

My local group’s Seneschal, Baroness Mathilde des Pyrenees OP OL, seemed to be in need of a new coronet. Lots of SCAdians call these “party hats”, as opposed to the shiny heavy metal ones landed barons and baronesses will often wear for official functions. They’re generally lightweight leather coronets, often adjustable so they can wear them over a variety of headgear.

I offered to make her one, then, in a fit of madness altruism, decided I’d make one for each member of the shire that wanted one (and rated it, of course).

Turns out, The Shire of Coppertree is like the goddamned all-star team of Æthelmearc. I had no idea. The shire’s populace includes a Dutchess (actually a triple-threat KSCA OP OL Dutchess), two Viscounts (one a Count/Viscount) with consorts (and one consort is also a Laurel with an Augmentation of Arms, Cornelian, Sigil, etc. and so forth of her own), a couple of Court Barons, a couple Jewels of Æthelmearc, three Knights, six Laurels, and five Pelicans.

It’s quite honestly off the hook. I can only hope to someday add a couple small checkmarks to this shire’s long list of accomplishments. Anyways…

This looks a lot to me like I need to make at least seven party hats. 

Better get cracking. I made the first one for Mathilde. Step one, figure out what she wants on it. Her arms look like this:


I contacted an artist friend to have him draw me a more updated Great Pyrenees dog for the coronet. This is what he came up with, with much back-and-forth:

mathildecoronet_2I set to work gathering materials: some green aventurine gemstones, brass filigree bezel mounts, some gold-plated fleur-de-lis mounts, a bag of large freshwater pearls, leather and some thin brass plate.

I started soldering the bezel cups to the brass plate to mount them. These cups have an open back, and have to be mounted to something solid. I played with the layout a little bit:

and tooled the dog onto the front. On the advice of my wife, I ended up filing the gemstone mounts into little quatrefoil shapes, rather than leaving them square.

I put it all together, and…

I really have to get a picture of her wearing it… 😀


No pictures to go with this one, just a writeup for the class I taught at Æthelmearc Æcademy a couple weeks ago, and will teach again at Pennsic.

I’ll try and get some pictures next time I teach the class and add them here.

A LOT of research went into this, and I’m still not done.

Vinegaroon (PDF)

EDIT: Oh, I got some pictures, all right.


Hedeby Bags

There’s not a lot of evidence that I’m aware of, at least for Scandinavian Vikings, to have belt pouches. Eastern Vikings, sure – the Birka pouch from Sweden, many, many tarsolys from Russia – but nothing from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, the Danelaw, etc. Seems like it just wasn’t a thing. But people have stuff, and they need to keep it somewhere, so they had to have had something.

Enter the Hedeby bag.

The evidence for this bag comes from fourteen finds in the harbor of the German city of Haithabu (Hedeby in English). For a long time, archaeologists didn’t know what they were for. Eventually, someone compared them to similar items from the Sami peoples, who lived in the arctic areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Kola Peninsula going back some 5,000 years (Wikipedia article on Sami people).

This excerpt from Florian Westphal’s Die Holzfunde von Haithabu, edited by Tomáš Vlasatý, shows several examples of the Hedeby handle finds, as well as examples of Sami culture bag handles:

Die Holzfunde von Haithabu (PDF)

Anyways, I needed one. So I made one. Actually, I have made five so far, all of leather and from handles I made. Here is mine:

Lightweight vegetable tanned (not really, as you’ll read) leather, cherry handles finished with tung oil, and an inkle-woven strap of wool, with a gold-plated buckle and tip of Scandinavian origin (I simply CANNOT resist an opportunity to add bling to something).

(Prior to adding the buckle and tip)

This leather was colored using vinegaroon, a method of turning leather black using iron dissolved in vinegar to cause a chemical reaction with the tannins in the leather. Sadly, this piece of leather was a bargain blowout sale piece from Tandy Leather Factory, and very, very little actual vegetable matter was used in the tanning of this hide. You can tell because there is so little tannin in the leather that the chemical reaction with the vinegaroon solution only turned it this blue-gray color. Quality vegetable tanned leather will turn a deep black after only a few seconds in a vinegaroon solution.

bag_2This leather also took stamping extremely poorly, which is why I gave up after only a few rows of geometric stamping. It had been my intention to cover the face of the bag with decoration. As the front and back panels of this bag are 12″x12″, I’d have been stamping for a while, so maybe this was one of those happy accidents…

bag_3As you lift the bag by it’s strap, the weight of the bag causes the top to close up, keeping the handles flat against each other and securing it quite nicely. To get something from the bag, you must lift it up to take the pressure off the handles, at which point they pull open effortlessly. Quite an elegant design.

This bag is a smaller one I made for my seven year old son. He requested a red bag, with Odin’s ravens on it, and he asked for them by name: Huginn and Muninn. I’d call that a parenting win.


The bag handles are ash from his grandfather’s forest.


The bag is quite large enough for him to carry a bottle of water, his tablet, and whatever other geegaws he’s attached to on any given day.


It’s about 7″ across on the top.

I’ve done no documentation for this, as I’m making them for personal use. Here is some excellent documentation and directions done by my student-brother Lord Hrόlfr á Fjárfelli of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn in Æthelmearc:

Make your own Viking hand bag

Butterfly Archery Armguard

This was a project for Lady Amalie Reinhardt, Æthelmearc Webminister. She’s a deadeye with a knife or an axe, but wanted to improve at archery, and needed a better archery armguard. She had found a picture of one she liked but wanted it in her colors, so I offered to make it for her. Her arms are:

armguard_8so we wanted something that would go nicely, and protect well. Female elbows usually work differently than male elbows – they hyperextend a bit, and the soft part of the inside of the elbow can get snapped with a string sometimes, so you have to design a bracer that extends up over that part of the elbow to be truly useful for an archer lacking a Y chromosome.

Naturally, the first one I cut out was the wrong way. Any female, left-handed archers out there need a bracer? 😀

Once my false start was past me, I started off with addressing the edges, then carved in the basic shapes, and started adding texture.


Leather holds paint a LOT better if it’s on texture, rather than smooth skin, so I pounded down all the colored sections with pebble backgrounders.


Eventually, the whole thing was finished. This took a LONG time.


After that, I started adding color. I was using Fiebing’s Spirit Dyes, diluted 1:8 with 96% rubbing alcohol.

Yes, really.

I take a 32 ounce bottle of rubbing alcohol, pour out 4 ounces, and pour in a 4 ounce bottle of Fiebing’s dye. This is how I use all my dyes except black. It lets me carefully control the hue and saturation, which is SUPER important with Fiebing’s spirit dyes, because long exposure to the sun causes all their colored dyes to darken – some will darken until they’re indistinguishable from black (blue and green in particular have this problem).

When I cut the dye this severely, the darkening that happens is much more subtle, and I’ve found that most items eventually darken to the correct hue. Anyways, I started to apply dye, carefully, with small paintbrushes.


I decided that the yellow just wasn’t ever going to be vibrant enough, so I went back over the yellow areas with a yellow oil-based paint marker. I use these things all the time on leather, and love them. I filled in the white spots with a white marker, and started CAREFULLY applying black dye to the edges.


Eventually, all the black areas got two coats.


Final steps involved applying beeswax to the edges and burnishing them smooth and hard with a small cocobolo wood wheel in my Dremel, and spraying the front side with a lanolin-based preservative spray. I also added a piece of latigo lace.

Here it is on Lady Amalie’s arm, ready to shoot. Note how it extends up over the inside of her elbow for complete protection from errant string snaps.


No documentation. While armguards did exist in-period, this one falls quite firmly into the “Ren Faire Fabulous” camp.

I’m also a mediocre fletcher…

I do a lot of archery in the SCA, with varying degrees of skill. A lot of archery, for me, depends on the weather, my fragile emotional state, the day of the week, the alignment of Venus and Mars, and sunspots. Disirregardlessly, I persevere. Honestly, it’s amazing how lucky I get when I practice a lot. Anyway…

When you shoot a lot, you lose or break a lot of arrows. Wooden arrows with feather fletchings can get spendy – they start around $70 a dozen and only go up. After spending $100 a dozen three times in two months, I figured I’d better get on this fletching bandwagon.

It saves you a little money (shafts, nocks, tips, fletchings, and needed glues and chemicals still run you about $65 per dozen) but you can do better if you buy in bulk, and occasionally people will give you money to make them arrows, which helps. The best part about fletching is that all you need to do is be able to do neat work, then spend $300 on tools, and you’ll be making professional-quality flying pointy sticks of your own in no time!

Here’s a few pictures of arrows I’ve made. This first one is my current batch of personal projectiles:

And some others I’ve done:



These were a personal favorite project, USMC Dress Blues themed arrows. Sadly, right after I finished them I upgraded to a stronger bow, and these aren’t spined correctly for the new bow, so they’re mostly loaners now.


Full album of these arrows here: https://imgur.com/a/8t0MV

For the truly bored, here is an album that takes you through how I make arrows, in excruciating detail: https://imgur.com/a/gbLql


Cairnhold Legion Tarsoly

My co-leader of our Dagorhir Unit, Bones, does a lot of work. I wanted to make him a nice thing for Christmas in 2016, so I made him this Rus belt pouch, called a tarsoly (pronounced tar-shoy).

It’s hand-stitched from 10oz vegetable tanned leather. The front cross was sawn by hand from a brass door kickplate. I soldered copper rivets onto the back of it to mount it.

No documentation, as this was a gift. Full Imgur album is here: https://imgur.com/a/VDSJ5

14th Century Girdle Purses

I wanted to enter the 2017 Ice Dragon A&S competition, but wasn’t sure what to make. I finally settled on making a matched pair of male and female 14th century girdle purses. They were well-received – I won the leatherworking category at Ice Dragon, and my entry received the second-highest score of any item entered.

Here is the completed male purse:


And the completed female purse:


Here are some WIP photos:

I presented them as gifts to TRM of Æthelmearc Timothy of Arindale and Gabrielle van Nijenrode upon the occasion of their coronation.

Girdle Purse Documentation

Medieval belt set with tigereye gems

This was a belt made for a good friend who does a lot of free graphic design work and really cheap screenprinted apparel for various groups I run or am a member of. If you’ve seen our iconic Cairnhold Legion “skeleton with turnips and beets” shirts, this guy did that for us. Anyway, it was payback time, so I made him a thing.


No documentation for this project, but the buckle, tip, and eagle mounts came from Kult of Athena, the brass filigree bezel cups came from Rio Grande jewelry supply, and the tigerseye gems came from India via eBay.

Viking Age Quiver

I needed a quiver to go with my SCA persona, Snorri skyti Bjarnarson. He’s a Pagan Norseman born in 973, a trader and archer, who married a Christianized Kievan Rus woman, Annika Iosefa. They split the difference and settled in Hedeby (Haithabu in German), and so draw inspiration from each other’s cultures. This quiver, styled after remnants found in Hedeby, seemed perfect.


The body is 7-8oz vegetable tanned leather, the top part is chemically-tanned bullhide. It has a latigo leather lace drawstring with a large green glass bead. The body was machine sewed with my Tippman Boss harness stitcher, but the bullhide parts were all hand saddle-stitched. There’s a Thor’s Hammer appliqued onto the top cover (the original had a cross, but my persona is clinging to the old gods) but it sorta looks a bit phallic. I’ll do better next time.


The most interesting feature, one which we have no reason to have today, is that the top rolls up to cover the arrows. This would have been vitally important, as the Vikings didn’t have modern glues, but rather would have stuck their fletchings on with pine pitch or some other sticky natural compound, and then tied them on with silk thread (if they could get it) or hempen cord. These would have been horribly vulnerable to wetness, dirt, etc. and so would have needed to be cared for much more carefully than we do with modern arrows.


The blotchiness of the dye job I attribute to the terrible quality of leather I got from Tandy – this was a blowout sale double shoulder that I got for about $40. It’s undoubtedly from a tannery in Mexico or India, and was an awful piece of leather to work with.

Documentation for a similar quiver that I entered into Ice Dragon’s A&S Pentathalon in 2018 is below:

hedeby quiver ice dragon 2018

Hedeby Quiver documentation from Ice Dragon A&S Pentathalon 2018

The style is copied from information found in Ausgrabungen in Haithabu by Willy Groenman-van Waateringe. It’s long out-of print, but I’ve managed to scan a copy for your perusal. Quiver pieces found on pages 101-103 at the very end of the book.

Ausgrabungen in Haithabu (Warning: 12.5 MB PDF file!)

If you’re interested in trying to make one, here is a diagram of the pattern I use, for reference:

Hedeby Quiver Pattern

The full Imgur album of build photos is here: https://imgur.com/a/dB0cB

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