A new plan on my scribal education –

I’ve been trying very hard to try something new each time I have a new assignment, which is great and keeps me excited, however it makes it difficult to get progressively better at one thing.

So my current plan is to work from a single time period/location for a awhile, see if I can make noticeable progress in a particular segment of the scribal field.
I chose to focus on two particular manuscripts – This Bible on Gallica from 1150-1200 for the script and this Untitled document from Gallica 1175-1200 mainly for the illumination. I chose to go with these two rather than one or the other because I really like the script in the first one, but it has very limited illumination. The script in the second document is similar to the first but is a bit more gothic than I wanted to work with for this project – however it has amazing illuminations in designs that would work rather well for SCA scrolls. As they appear to be pretty closely related to each other in time and place, I feel it’s ok to mix them together.

My daily scribal practice is entirely based on this Bible. I’ve copied out the first page and zoomed in and have very close images of the hand as it was written in context. From this I am developing a ductus for this exact hand. To help with my particular issues doing scrolls, I’m copying text from a Latin text and writing it in my practice journal. This has two major benefits – I get better at copying things I don’t know how to read and by using latin, it’s easier to see how the letters were supposed to look together. By doing this practice in Latin, using a book that has the English translation on the mirror page, I’m also picking up a bit of Latin as I go along, which makes redacting hands from primary sources easier as I am starting to recognize words and know what the letters are supposed to be from context.

So the first scroll from this intensive study :

img_20161104_193042923I hate my spacing, both the line spacing and the letter spacing. The changes in the size of the hand was somewhat intentional, however the execution was not as I had wanted it.  For once though, I’m not going to beat myself up too much as I did this scroll while burning up with fever and shaking through chills and coughing fits.The fact that there is nothing horribly wrong with this scroll is a miracle. I should have realized my limitations and sent it out to have the calligraphy done by someone else, but I felt better in the morning and thought I’d be ok to do the work, but no, I just got sicker. Turned out it was full blown pneumonia. But I got it done, and it looks better than some of my work, so that is somewhat a win.

I have a few funny pictures of the illumination – this is from when I was getting sick but not quite as sick as I was when I did the calligraphy – It was easier to do the painting lying down since the position kept my hand from shaking too much from the fever and it kept it easier to brace for when I’d go into coughing fits.

Luckily I had already done most of the illumination in the weeks before, so there wasn’t too much to finish in that vein once I got sick.

I did not go to the event to see it given out. I hope it was received well. I also hope that it doesn’t play Trojan horse, bringing this virus into other people’s houses.

A scroll based on a page of the gorleston psalter

So my latest assignment (and I promise to update the blog with the last six month’s worth of assignments soon.. I promise) was a Silver Brooch for a 14th century Welsh persona. Based on the write up, she’s an avid embroiderer who helps out with elevation garments and enjoys researching primary sources to use for embroidery designs.

As soon as I heard 14th century I immediately thought of the trap manuscript (Luttrell Psalter) and just as quickly said, NO WAY AM I DOING THAT TO MYSELF AGAIN, or at least so soon… And then remembered that there were a bunch of psalters from that time frame with equally awesome illuminations – particularly my favorite, the fox preaching to the geese.

So I looked up fox and geese and psalter and google came back with the Gorleston Psalter, which is not actually the manuscript I was thinking of, but is equally cool. And best of all, since it’s not the Luttrell, it doesn’t have those god awful flat feet in the calligraphy! It’s more of a proto-gothic, leaning heavily towards the gothic style. Which, while way more angular than I like doing, at least seems like something I could some day get good at, as opposed to the Luttrell hand of doom.

I emailed back and forth with Mistress Briony to get some more clues on what the recipient would enjoy and found out that she has a love of bunnies. Perfect! This time period is crawling with bunnies!

I browsed through the Gorleston Psalter, noting all the interesting and fun themes I found along the way as I totally plan to use this source again – it’s like a saner version of the Luttrell! And eventually I honed in on one particular page, 70v, which has a monk working at a scribal desk for its initial capital. I decided I could pretty easily make that into a woman working at an embroidery frame, which would be appropriate for the time period and recipient, and started looking for other elements to put together to better personalize the scroll.


I found some great bunnies in the line extenders –



and lots of fun bunnies all over the place!




I went with this one as it balanced well with the rest of the design I wanted to use:


I put all the pieces into a graphics program to see how I can best put the pieces together, after many iterations, I decided I liked this one best-


I had a slightly shorter lead time than I usually have, or at least it felt that way since it was in that post pennsic month where time has a hard time existing in linear form. And to make the situation more stressful, my main scribal support network were on a cruise. So I was on my own, and decided to do the part I hate most, the words, first.

Given the space concerns, I needed to make the text pretty small, but still personal. I ended up with 97 words, which fit pretty nicely. I actually ended up squeezing more space out of it, thus I kinda wish I had added another sentence, but my draft versions just fit, so that was the reason I didn’t make it longer. I’ve had too many occurrences of just barely getting all the words onto the scroll. This time I was going to play it safe.

The first thing I did was trace the main elements of the design onto tracing paper and then overlaid it with another piece on which I did a first draft of the calligraphy, more to see how it would fit and how many capitals I’d need to do and where I could put the sentence spacers. It ended up making more sense to only use one of the spacers as the signature lines would end up taking up the bottom space.

Once I felt that the words would fit, I started practicing the hand and the words on scraps of perg that I had left over from other projects as I’ve found that since I normally practice on paper, I’m always nervous on perg – so I need more practice on perg. Thankfully I’ve finally convinced my head that the perg isn’t really that expensive, particularly in comparison to other scribal expenses, so I can use the scraps for practice –


I still don’t have the discipline to get my angles consistent and I’m still not great on keeping my letters within the proper lines. It’s like it’s a test where you have to fill in just the circle, no more, no less  – and for some reason my hand always slips, no matter how hard I concentrate. But it’s getting better with daily practice. I have very little desire to ever do full gothic (I don’t like how it looks) but I do hope to get better at this looser style.

Leanne and I brainstormed some hands that might fit my natural tendencies better like humanist, but I like the cartoony style of the 12th-14th century.

But anyway on to the actual scroll –


Ignoring for the moment the shapes of my letters (too round, I know) the two other issues are word spacing and line spacing. The line spacing is the stupidest mistake – for who knows what reason I started on the wrong line – DESPITE LABELING THEM- and then got slightly confused on the fourth line down. There is nothing to be done here other than beat myself with a heavy book. But I swear I do this every time… It’s so frustrating.

My word spacing issues come from my perennial fear of running out of space. I over compensated this time, smooshing everything in together. I think more vertical guidelines would have helped with this – but also doing more drafts at full size on the tracing paper so I can be more confident that my words will fit on the page.

As for the illumination, I think it came out pretty well. It’s very hard to tell from this picture because of the lighting (zooming in helps), but there’s white work on everything and it really adds a great dimension to the piece. I like the natural graceful shape of all the shapes. I measured and drew most of it by hand, and then traced over that to get the more natural lines. I decided to keep the slightly listing border design (the words are justified, but the border isn’t, it’s at like a 10 degree angle to the words) as that was how many of the borders were presented in the original, and I could see why the scribes had chosen that option – the text was the more important part and this was the easy way to make the border fit in around the capitals.

I used Holbein Gold gouache, mixed with WN Alizarin Red gouache to get a range of gold shades to make the gold on gold work look better and feel more three dimensional. The rest of the highlighting and shadows were done primarily using whitework, which sadly isn’t showing well in this photograph.

This was one of the first scrolls I’ve done entirely with gouache instead of using my WN watercolor pans, I’m not sure if it made much of a difference. I do think that the gouache is better for the flat background colors, but I think I much prefer the pans for the shading layers and details as it’s easier to get a consistent layers of paint with the watercolors. Mixing up colors with all the different shades I might need is hard to keep track of and not contaminated with other colors – though that’s mostly because of 20 years experience with high quality watercolors. I’m too used to being able to just mix on the fly.

Which style is more period really depends a great deal on which time period. The difference between gouache and watercolors is primarily the binders and amount the pigments are ground down. Looking at earlier period manuscripts (pre 1300’s) it seems like the technique is closer to the watercolor theory of layering lots of very light coats of pigments in a thin binder. But starting around 1300 you start getting images that look more three dimensional and involve layers of more opaque paint on top of one another. This is much more in line with the gouache techniques and I think also the tempera techniques, though I haven’t played with tempera in many many years. This change in techniques allows for the later full color borders with intricate bugs and flowers that appear lifelike. That is technically possible with the watercolor technique, but is significantly easier with the gouache style of painting.

A sister scroll to the last gothic one..

Oh Luttrell Psalter, you are so sneaky, with your pretty pretty pictures and your nice clean calligraphy – you make it all look so easy… like anyone could do that… But no, don’t be fooled, this manuscript lies to new scribes. It whispers “oh don’t worry, it’ll be fine, look at my nice crisp lines and my pretty little s’s, this won’t be hard” when really it’s a deceptively difficult manuscript to copy. Talking to various other scribes, this is a common trap that new scribes fall into, particularly ones who are more comfortable in illumination since it has such pretty pictures, but it is possible to do, particularly once you accept that yours is not going to look quite as perfect as the original.

This is the second scroll I’ve done from this manuscript in the last few weeks, and I figured the first one’s calligraphy was hard because I just hadn’t had enough time to properly learn it, so I figured the second one would go better since I had already put in so much practice time on the first. The second one did go better, but I think I need a few more years worth of practice before I can do this hand justice.

For this scroll I used folio 13 reverso (the back side of page 13) :

I chose this particular page as the person the scroll was for is a thirteenth century harper, and King David and his harp leaped to mind, plus I love this page.


Here’s my version, a bit simplified:my_work 2016_3_4

Now look back at the previous post, that’s supposed to be the same hand – so yes, I’m making definite progress, but man is this hand hard… I’m going to set this manuscript aside for a little while and go back to my good friends in the proto-gothic world where I can actually feel a little bit of confidence.. But! My spacing and vertical lines look much better. They still need work, but way better than last time.

I try my hand at a gothic calligraphy style


Silver Wheel for A&S Champs, yes, I spelled Championship wrong… And I got carried away on my s’s – I really enjoy doing gothic short s’s now that Karen taught me a trick to them (don’t think of them as s’s, which is basically what to do with long s’s as well..)

It’s based on the Luttrell Psalter folio 53r, Here’s the whole thing online at the British library – http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_42130 and here’s the book opened to the page I did – http://blancefleur.tumblr.com/image/84238302229

I mostly traced this one (the vines and leaves are all free hand, along with the diapering and whitework), but I’m doing a second that is entirely free hand since the images are really easy to free hand and then I can work them into the design I want more easily. I chose to trace in this particular case because I had procrastinated too long and needed to get the shapes on quickly so I’d have time to do all the layers I wanted to do.

Part of the reason I was rushed with this one was that it’s my first with metal leaf, and that took quite a bit longer than I had expected. I used Mona Lisa’s Silver Leaf from their gilding kit, which I highly DO NOT recommend. Firstly the directions are terrible, and secondly, the ‘silver’ is tin, which is fine, except that it doesn’t cut nicely so it’s really hard to brush away the extra that’s not supposed to be there as when you brush it, it rips across the part you do want. I now have plenty of the much better quality stuff to try, but I thought it might be a good idea to start with the cheaper option to see how it went, and as usual, it was miserable.

The calligraphy was all done Thursday night before it went to the event Friday afternoon, which wasn’t my original plan, but as said, the timeline got pretty compressed due to the silver, and then not realizing quite how much illumination I had bitten off until I was well into the process. (Yes, I do the illumination first, Yes, I know this is crazy, Yes, I sort of regret it for this one due to how the lines worked out, but that was also somewhat due to the compressed timeline for the calligraphy as I didn’t have time to do extensive drafts of how I wanted the calligraphy to fit into the scroll.)

It’s not terrible. Ok, it’s pretty terrible, but given how much Gothic and I do not get along, it’s pretty good. The three things I struggle with the most in scribal are 1) word spacing, 2) Verticals being vertical, 3) Getting my feets correctly on the baseline. (Yes, I’m sure there are lots of other things wrong as well, but these are the ones I’m most working on right now). So the big difference with this scroll was that I used Vertical guidelines for the first time, and it’s something.

1) Word Spacing. Within the word, and between words, it’s still not great, but this is probably the best I’ve done so far in terms of my words all being appropriate distances from each other, and the internal spacing in words is pretty decent. I think the vertical guidelines helped the most with this aspect, mostly as they created a grid that I could use to see how far the letters were from each other, and I could count on them to be regular.

2) Verticals being Vertical. This was the reason I used vertical guidelines for the first time with this scroll, and I suspect they helped, but I’m kinda amazingly oblivious to the guide lines, it’s like my hand just desperately wants to slant all my letters every which way and is revolting against the guidelines. They aren’t terrible, but being gothic it’s really obvious when they are slightly wrong. I really need to practice this ALL THE TIME.

3) Feets. Thankfully this hand has mostly flat feets, I’m especially terrible at getting pointy feets to end up in the right place.. but even with flat feets it’s really hard to remember what I am doing – mostly from a serif perspective, I really love adding little serifs, and this hand has very few serifs. But these feets were also supposed to be square, and that was very hard to do without having practiced enough. I suspect my feets would have been considerably better if I had given myself enough time to actually properly learn the hand and not been rushed.

I kinda want to animate my letters as they have definite personalities.. my Ys are so often drunkenly sliding under the table, while my V’s have too much confidence and my As are desperately trying to hold everything together but failing since their mates dislike them for thinking they are perfect.

You can also definitely see me getting more tired and sliding back into prot0-gothic, but it looks okay. ish.

Two scrolls for 12th Night

A scroll blank for Caera Fitzpatrick, calligraphy and words by Nest. Based on __ To be filled in later…


And then we have an AoA that I did all by myself. The calligraphy looks kinda awful, but it looks exactly like the source. Source :http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8423829s/f13.item.zoom It’s a weird transitional hand.

2016 Goals

Crafting/Art – Continue doing something creative every day. Learn a new thing each month. Update the blog regularly!!

SCA – Teach more classes on different subjects. Get one period competency with Athena’s Thimble. Enter at least 2 A&S competitions. Do a high merit award scroll.

Social – Step away from internet arguments instead of continuing them. Continue to invite people over the house once a month. Hangout with someone new at least quarterly. Consciously practice deliberate speaking and writing. Ask more questions about what other people are doing and listen to their answers. Don’t give unsolicited advice.

Cooking – Have at least 1 fruit every day. Have at least 2 veggies every day. Eat at least one meal every day that could be claimed as home cooked (toast does not count).

Cleaning –  Get my room to a manageable amount of stuff

Fitness – Endurance: be able to run a mile without stopping in 10 minutes. Strength: get upper and lower body to 150 lb weight resistance. (Currently I’m at about 70) Go to gym 12+ times a month, ideally get 250 minutes of cardio a week.

Health – Weight – I suppose a better goal would be shape based, apparently hip to waist ratios for women should be lower than .85, and ideally around .7 (I am currently .9) I would also like a bust measurement of less than 44 inches.

2015 Goals Revisited

Crafting/Art – Document all projects as I start them. Try to do something creative at least 250 minutes a week. Draw something every day. Also write every day, preferably in a journal. Post to my blog at least once a week with my updates.

Well, I have documented more projects this year than usual? That’s got to count for something. And I think I’ve been pretty good at the do something creative every day/draw every day. Writing has fallen down a long dark hole, I’m not sure if I even care that I failed at that one though. My blog really ought to get posted to more often though, particularly given how many projects I have completed lately. Which brings us to:

SCA – Have “respectable” feast gear. Have at least 1 outfit to wear in court that I am not ashamed of. Make a scribal portfolio. Enter at least 1 A&S competition. Teach 3 classes at various locations. Learn more metal working skills. Document what I make on my blog. Get to Craftsman status with Athena’s Thimble, try to become a senior member. Perhaps become an apprentice?

This one I nailed. Though it did take me basically all year. I have respectable feast gear. I have 1 outfit, and soon a few more (they just need some handwork) that I feel comfortable wearing to court. I not only made a scribal portfolio, I am a real scribe now, doing live scrolls, finally. I entered 1 A&S competition, which was pretty fun/miserable, I still am somewhat on the fence about K&Q in a month, but if I can manage to scrape together a portfolio of viking spoons.. I’ve taught at least three classes at various locations, some even weren’t intro to embroidery! I’m still working on remembering to blog about the projects though, but I’m working on it. I did finally attain Craftsman status with Athena’s Thimble at yule. I need a few more Ps&Qs before I get to try to be a senior member. AND, best of all, I did apprentice myself to Rozi. Hopefully next year I’ll have some time for more metal working.

Cooking – Have fruit every day. Have veggies every day. Bring my lunch to work at least 4 days a week. Eat out no more than twice a week during normal situations.

Ha ha.. nope. I think I might have even gotten worse about this this year than last. Though I have at least been eating at restaurants less, but I’ve mostly done that through intelligent snacking.

Gardening/Farming – Harvest foods before they go to seed. Dry herbs for the winter. Can food for the winter. Keep the weeds down around the garden. Compost the chicken litter.

Nope. I planted two planters, nearly everything died. There was nothing to can. I gave up on the garden because I was too busy in the spring.

Building –  Organize all the tools and put up a peg board system.

Well, I did at least get the work bench out into the garage and now there’s a place to work on projects. No peg board system though. But we do have drawers…

Cleaning – Re-organize the pantry twice a year (once already done today), get my room to a manageable amount of stuff.

Yay it’s time for the annual pantry cleaning! Which means, yeah, no, I didn’t do it twice a year, though I did a quick sort sometime in the summer.

Fitness – Endurance: be able to run a mile without stopping in 10 minutes. Strength: get upper and lower body to 150 lb weight resistance. (Currently I’m at about 70) Go to gym 12+ times a month, ideally get 250 minutes of cardio a week.

I have managed to go to the gym about twice since 2014. That said, I don’t think I’m in considerably worse shape, but I certainly did not meet these goals and will probably use them again.

Health – Weight – I suppose a better goal would be shape based, apparently hip to waist ratios for women should be lower than .85, and ideally around .7 (I am currently .9) I would also like a bust measurement of less than 44 inches.

I am the same size and shape I was in 2014. Which while better than being worse, is still not reaching the goal. Goal will remain the same. Priority will be on me in 2016, not everyone else.

Fun little AoA based on an 1100s manuscript



This AoA was for Kathryn Tighe’s son, Clark wrote the words. This is my first live scroll assignment.

The source is here:

I am most proud that I managed to not have to do the scroll twice as I didn’t screw it up. My goals are small. Only having to do the scroll once is a big deal 🙂

Windsor Newton cake watercolors on Fluid 100 hot press watercolor paper. Sumi green bottle ink.

I chose this source due to the information I had on the persona, I had asked around about him but my usual sources didn’t know who he was. So I picked an awesome manuscript page that had calligraphy that I liked the look of and decided to copy that. I particularly like the drawn capitals. I didn’t mean to make it yule themed (red and green) and didn’t pick up on that until the day of the Yule event. But regardless, it was how the original was done and I really like the simplistic design.

Takeaway – I need to make myself use vertical guidelines, even if it doesn’t seem worth it, it totally is.

St. Eligius Arts and Sciences competition in The Barony of Dragonship Haven


So despite being woefully unprepared before the event, I managed to come up with a reasonable display and documentation on a subject that I could talk to intelligently.

Oh fine, I’ll learn calligraphy..

IMG_20151008_201206341Firstly, a scroll for Donovan’s Provost’s Company, words by Alys. (Oh god, why is my first court presented calligraphy, a calligraphy only scroll, what was I thinking?!)



Then we have a backlog AOA, that I did twice. Once big, (on the right), and then a second time smaller, but with better calligraphy and fewer spelling errors. They both have redeeming features, which is why I’m posting both. I’ve thankfully learned a lot since then.

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