Promises to keep (part 1)

The one kind of embroidery I’ve always been afraid to try is goldwork. Metal doesn’t hold up well to being ripped if you mess up, there are a lot of different sorts of metal to work with, and they’re pretty expensive. I’ve bought a couple of kits over the years, but they’ve never made it out of the stash.

Until now.

See, last November I was at an SCA event where a lady was elevated to the Order of the Laurel, largely for her goldwork. And at her vigil she made me promise to have a go at it before that event came around this year.

So, here you go, Mistress P. One goldwork project in progress, as promised.

First layer of felt padding:

Second layer of felt padding:

All the felt sewn down:

First section of gold passing couched down with the ends plunged:

Light in the darkness

A very long time ago I decided that I was going to knit a shawl that I could wear at Midwinter, in the depths of cold and dark and ice, that would cheer me up and serve as a reminder that the sun would come back. A shawl that looked like the sun in all its glory.

I have finally finished it, on the hottest day of the year so far. Who knows, maybe it will soak up some of that warmth and store it for me for December?

photo of completed shawl being held up by outstretched arms

Pattern: Radiance, with the edging from the Aestlight Shawl instead of the ruffle originally written in the pattern.

Yarn: Posh Yarn Miranda Cobweb (discontinued), colourway Shining Hour

Needles: 3.5mm circular Addi Turbo with a generic 3.5mm DPN I swiped from my grandmother to knit the edging on. (You don’t actually NEED a DPN to knit on an edging, but I find it less fiddly than using the other end of the circular needle.)

Pattern mods: In addition to swapping out the ruffle (which I did by just not working the increases on the last increase row), I added a plain knit row to the end so that the right side of the edging would be on the right side of the shawl.

photo of completed shawl wrapped around the blogger

I can’t say enough good things about the pattern. It’s very well written, to the extent that it comes in three versions: high detail for inexperienced knitters, low detail for people who just need the basics, and a checklist version for people like me who would rather make tick marks than count rows. The names of the colourway and patterns were a happy accident, but I think it turned out pretty well like a winter sunrise in yarn form. The trouble is, of course, that now I’ve got a song stuck in my head.

Roman gap-sleeved tunic

For the most part, the clothing I wear at SCA events tends to lots of layers, a great deal of wool, and all kinds of veils and hats. This is because I live in the UK and it’s bloody cold most of the time, even in summer.

However, I do on occasion travel to events in parts of the Kingdom that are decidedly hotter, and it’s high time I had some clothing that’s suitable for highs of 40C rather than 25C. To that end, a quick and dirty Roman gap-sleeved tunic.

This is not high-level research by any stretch of the imagination. I have acquired a copy of Croom’s Roman Clothing and Fashion and am working directly from her notes, with the desired end result of a piece of clothing I can wear in the summer and look acceptable when accessorized properly.

The tunic is nothing more than two very wide rectangles with seams most of the way up the sides and pins holding the shoulders together. (The pins are what create the gaps that give this style of tunic its name. No-one is entirely sure exactly how the pins work, since the sculptures and other artworks depicting this style just show round knobbly things at the places where the fabric is held together.)

As luck would have it, I had in my stash a couple of metres of this gorgeous dark green silk that was woven to a period width. (Modern fabric tends to be 60 inches wide. Historically, 45 inches or even narrower was much more common.) And not only was it the appropriate widths, it had selvedges that matched the rest of the fabric AND happened to be exactly the right length to drape to the floor properly. Bonus – I had matching silk thread.

photo of olive-green silk fabric

Forty-eight hours later, I have a new frock. And not long after that, a three and a half metre band of linen to go under it to corral my bosoms. (I’m wearing the linen in the photo below, but no photos of just the linen. There are limits to what I’ll post online.)

Selfie of the blogger wearing the gap-sleeved tunic

It needs a twisted cord to serve as a belt/girdle. At the moment I’ve just got it tied up with the band of inkle-weaving I use underneath my fourteenth-century stuff.

This style of tunic is seen up to the middle of the third century. I’m styling it as early third century, because I recently acquired this reproduction third century necklace.

Photo of a reproduction Roman pendant, gold with a dark blue stone in the middle

All that really means is that I’ll need to practice some funky hairstyling before I wear this at an event.

I still need to find some tropical-weight wool to turn into a mantle to go over the whole thing, but I’m pretty happy with how it has turned out!


I’ve been working on using up partial skeins of yarn recently. Most of these resulted in the parade of baby hats, but I had rather a lot more of a skein of Wollmeise sock yarn that I wanted to do something else with. It wasn’t enough for a pair of socks on its own, but as luck would have it I also had an untouched skein of black Wollmeise in my stash. The result:

Photo of a pair of orange and black socks

One pair of comfy ankle socks!

Yarn – Wollmeise Twin in Thriller and Wollmeise Pure Merino Superwash in Schwartz

Pattern – cobbled together from a bunch of patterns. The toe is a Turkish toe-tip, using the instructions from Fluffy Knitter Deb’s blog post. The ribbing pattern is from the sock pattern Thuja, mirrored so that the ribbing starts with a knit on one sock and a purl on the other. And the heel and the rest of the structure is from the Universal Toe-Up Sock Formula.

Needles – 2.5mm. I started the toe on Addi metal circular needles and moved to my usual bamboo DPNs as soon as possible, since I loathe knitting socks with circular needles.


Photo of two small balls of yarn scraps, each one the size of an apricot

Yarn chicken victory!

Follow through

I don’t know about you, but my crafting nemesis is the last 2-5% of the project. Basically, I’m done with the project before the project is done with me. This mostly manifests in SCA clothing that is wearable but not done. I’m trying to stop doing this.

For now, I’m practising with my yarn. Remember the spindle full of singles in my last post?

skein of handspun mohair

2-ply mohair, 87g, 110 yards. Singles done on the spindle, plying done on my wheel.

Not a clue what I’m going to do with it, but hey, it’s plied and wet-finished. Actually done.

Trade secrets

I do quite a bit of spinning. Mostly it’s on a wheel, but my collection of spindles goes out and about to SCA events with me, and occasionally I will use them at home. Recently I’ve been working through a bump of mohair on this amazing cog-shaped spindle, and since I’m now at a point where I often get questions, I thought I’d share the secret.

The question is, “How do you get the singles off your spindle?”

The answer? A very sophisticated piece of technology called the Shoebox With Holes In It.

Photo of an open shoebox with a small hole cut through one long side and a V-shaped notch cut in the opposite side

The hole at the back of the box is where the spindle shaft goes, and the notch at the front is where I rest the whorl end. Like so:

spindle suspended in the hole and notch of the shoebox

Then you just take the end of your singles and wind off, either into a ball of yarn or directly onto a spinning wheel bobbin. (I always go with the latter because I prefer plying from my lazy Kate rather than from a plying ball.)

It’s a very versatile tool, my Shoebox With Holes In It. It fits all of my spindles in the hole-and-notch system, works with top AND bottom whorl spindles, and when I’m not using it to wind off singles, I use it to store my handcards and flick carder.

Pixie hat with a difference

A couple of years ago I made one of those pixie hats for a small person in my life. She outgrew in, as small people are wont to do, and recently her mother remarked that she’d love to have a bigger one for the kidlet.

‘It’s not as if they take long to make’, I thought to myself.

And, in fact, it didn’t.

This one is DK-weight cotton on a 5mm hook. Also, it’s actually bright turquoise. My phone camera is having conniptions and refusing to take the colour.

Stashbusting – tea towels

The Other Half and I are in the early phases of preparation to move house. In his case, this means reading all of the magazines and bits of paper in his “to read” pile so that they can be chucked out. In my case, this means using up or otherwise getting rid of some of the excess crafting stash that’s lurking in our flat.

Some time ago I bought this perfectly respectable cotton waffle fabric only to realize that it was totally inappropriate for what I’d been planning. No-one wanted to take it off my hands, so I decided it was high time to replace the tea towels that we’ve had for the last twelve years.

They’re not terribly exciting, really, but then not every project has to be.

I squared off the edges of the fabric, cut it into eight equal pieces, then hemmed the resulting rectangles on my sewing machine. Didn’t even bother mitering the corners because, really? They’re tea towels.

Stack of red tea towels on an orange sofa

In hindsight I should have mitered the corners because there was so much fabric there I had to hand finish all of them. That’s why it took nearly a month for me to get these done instead of the weekend it should have taken.