Sherwood Hill Manor

Gwen Hir & Paul fitz Denis

Category: Arts & Sciences

A Plain White Belt

Yesterday at Estrella War, a lady who inspires me was elevated to the Order of Chivalry. I wanted to give her something appropriate to her new status, so I decided to weave her a belt.  My goal was to create a monochrome belt with subtle decoration.

Woven Knight's Belt


I was intrigued by a monochrome checkerboard ground weave pattern described by both Collingwood1 and Spies2. That pattern was used on some medieval silk bands between sections of brocade. Unfortunately, the checkerboard pattern didn’t really work well with the laceweight wool yarn I was using.  I scaled down the number of cards until I ended up with the following:

Woven with 32 cards, four threads in each, threaded SZSSZZSSZZSSZZSSZZSSZZSSZZSSZZSZ.

For the pattern cards (all but two on each side), turn 2 forward, 2 back.

Turn the four edge cards (two on each side) in the same direction until too much twist builds up, then reverse them.

The resulting band is about 3/4″ wide and has a texture that’s visible even with the slight fuzziness of the wool.

Congratulations, Sir Adrien!

Last Minute, No-Cook Meals

I like to eat historically inspired food when I’m at SCA events. Most of those events are day tournaments in city parks where it’s not practical to bring and setup a camp kitchen. The night before events I’m often busy with non-food preparations.  So I wanted to come up with lunch ideas that were easy to prepare and would at least look historical.

Inspired by a class I took at West Coast Culinary Symposium three years ago, I developed a handful of recipes that could be prepared without a kitchen even if I only had time to stop at the grocery store on my way to the event. Those recipes are based on various medieval and Roman sources, and they have formed the basis for what Paul and I bring to most events.  There’s enough variety that we can mix it up a bit.

Last weekend, I shared my recipes and redaction strategies with students in a class at West Coast Culinary Symposium.  Eventually, I plan to have those recipes and more in a new section on this site. Until then, you can peruse the recipes in my class handout: Last Minute Lunches.

German Brick Stitch Basics

A few weeks ago, a comment I made on Facebook resulted in a handful of people expressing interest in learning about medieval German “Brick Stitch” embroidery. Those people are spread across the US and I can’t get everyone together in one place to teach a class.  Instead, I put together a tutorial.  There are instructions, pictures, and redacted patterns.  If you’ve been thinking about trying Brick Stitch embroidery, do it! And if you have questions that aren’t answered, please let me know.

Tutorial: Brick Stitch Embroidery Basics

Lay of Sigri∂r and Li∂r, or The Foolish Herald

In June, I traveled from Caid to Ealdormere, to attend the Known World Heraldic Symposium. As I had just stepped up as Crescent Principal Herald, I asked Their Majesties Caid if they wanted me to carry a message or a gift to the Queen of Ealdormere, who was to hold a court at the event. Yesterday, at Festival of the Rose, I presented the following poem explaining how it went.

Song of Sigri∂r this now must I sing,
who longed to Li∂r to send laud and love.
Take heed and hearken, hear how both these Queens
well-matched in merit in memory should live.
Fresh crowned, Caid’s Queen called forth Her herald.
Both herald and bard oath-bound to serve Her.
To Her he came quick heard clear Her command:
“Gifts must be given when gone to the North.
“For in Ealdormere abides royal kin
Long Line of the North leads now to Li∂r.
For cousins We care, Convey now to Her
what wealth is best shared with wolf, wild, and will.
“Thus this We give you with this you are tasked,
Chosen and charged to choose a good gift.
But as bard you are be sure to bear too,
with what you bring Her bring worthy words, too.”
With this writ ringing with Her wish spoken
Her herald went forth Her will then to do.
Such is Sigri∂r to serve Her is sweet.
This work not weighty but willingly borne.
But what gift to give? Gilt-silver or gold?
Though this burden light the bard lost in thought.
So, haughty herald went humbly hunting.
All Caid’s corners he combed in his quest.
Carreg Wen’s white rocks washed by the blue sea,
Gyldenholt’s green groves in golden fruit garbed,
Dun Or’s desert plain dappled red and brown,
Starkhafn’s stillness night strung with silver.
And then thinks the bard this desperate thought:
“Is not Ealdormere always snow-covered?
Blanketed and bathed beneath white frost bound?
Caidan colors these they must crave.”
With haste picked and packed the pigments were found.
From Venice, Verona, rich earth red and vert.
Lapis lazuli and lead-tin yellow.
Mighty vermillion malachite and more.
As each was arranged he was elated.
East to Ealdormere he eagerly went,
Thinking his Queen’s quest quickly completed,
Bringing back honor with boast-worthy work.
But boast not before bold deeds are well done.
Upon arriving in fair Ealdormere
Our haughty herald beheld no white snow.
All Caid’s colors the North calls its own.
At this his thoughts raced: “How could this be so?
What wound will this deal? What close bonds unwind?
Surely I must shield my Queen from this shame.
Failing at foresight the fault is mine own.”
Before Li∂r led his life seeming lost
For his faults, he thought, herald’s head forfeit.
His doom, his downfall he felt it draw nigh.
But high hope returned when Her face he saw.
In Ealdormere’s Queen in eyes and in mien
Vibrance and virtue verses inspiring.
The same as he saw in Queen Sigri∂r.
Both must be most wise and merciful, too.
Indeed, true insight from ignorance born.
By fortune favored was this foolish bard.
Painter of pages Proud Ealdormere’s queen.
Despite his design his deed was well done.
Requested this queen of quick-witted bard
to Her true cousin Her token to bear
to give Her great thanks for gifts well-given.
And for worthy words the bard was well-paid.
Forget then the faults of foolish heralds.
Rather remember these royal cousins.
Let scribes with their skills on scrolls deftly paint
kinship’s true colors, both kingdoms grow close.
Song of Sigri∂r this now have I sung,
who longed to Li∂r to send laud and love.
Heeded and hearkened heard how both these Queens
well-matched in merit in memory will live.


  • The poem is written in alliterative málahátrr, an Old Norse poetic meter found in the Poetic Edda. Each hemistich (“half-stave”) has five syllables. Two syllables in the first half-stave of a line start with the same consonant sound; that sound repeats at least once in second half-stave of the line. These alliterating syllables are given stress when the poem is read aloud.
  • When I presented the pigments and the poem to Queen Li∂r, I had not yet written the fourth- and third-from-the last stanzas. (Starting with “Indeed, true insight” and ending with “the bard was well-paid.”) I had no idea what her reaction was going to be, so I emphasized her positive qualities (“and merciful, too”) and then moved on (“Forget then the faults”). When I reported back to Queen Sigri∂r, I added those two stanzas to explain how it turned out.
  • Unbeknownst to me, Queen Li∂r is an avid scribe, so when we presented the box of a dozen period pigments (selected by Master Martin FitzJames), she was overjoyed. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, I guess.
  • Queen Li∂r asked to take one of her pewter tokens back to Caid to give to Queen Sigri∂r in thanks for gift (which I did at Festival of the Rose). The one pictured at the top is the one she gave me as thanks for my verses.