Is namhaid í an cheird gan í a fhoghlaim. -- A craft is an enemy if not learned.

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Pennsic 2017!

posted Jul 25, 2017, 10:27 AM by Melissa Milner

Greetings again!

I have been a complete slacker this year and other than a few scrolls for kingdom I have basically not gotten anything accomplished since last Pennsic due to life issues, so apologies to those who hoped I would be posting more....

This year I will be teaching:

Intro to Celtic Knotwork 8/7 @ 11am and 8/9 @ 2pm in Aethelmearc Scribal Tent 2
Insular Scrolls - Beyond Knotwork 8/9 @ 3pm in Aethelmearc Scribal Tent 2
Irish Women's Garb 8/7 @ 12pm in A&S Tent 8

I will also be at the Early Irish Roundtable on 8/10 @ 10am in A&S Tent 5

I know I say this in every general post, but I do hope to get some more posts up soon. I have a few posts on books (both lists and reviews of specific books) almost finished. I also hope to get into some more nity gritty research in general and will post my notes here when I have them.

Hope to see some of you at War!

Pennsic Recap

posted Aug 19, 2016, 8:18 AM by Melissa Milner

Pennsic happened! I had fun! The East wiped the floor with the Mid (24 points to 3, ouch)! The weather was hot and sticky! 

I taught all my classes and they went reasonably well. 

My garb class had about 35 people attend, some of whom have attended before. I spurted lots of information, answered the questions that I could and got an idea of what additional research I want to do in the future. Mostly I want to expand the late period stuff and do some more work on accessories. I had scheduled the class for two hours but was wrapped up at just a few minutes under an hour. If I get my act together and do the additional research I may split the class into two one hour classes, one for late period and one for early. If I really get my act together I might expand my research into men's clothing.

I rushed off from there to the A&S display where I showed off my shaggy brat and my psalter. The brat got most of the attention (it is different and there were a lot more fiber people than scribal people, probably because of the scribal meetings that were at the same time) but there was lots of good conversation had on both. I ended up sitting on top of the table since it was very wide and tall and I am short. It was hard to hear and talk to people from the other side. Several other people ended up copying me in my brilliant plan. 

The round-table also went reasonably well and had about 20 people attend. I dragged a large portion of my library along with me (I need to remember some sort of wheeled cart next year) and showed off my brat and psalter some more. The first portion of the time was mostly people looking at and discussing the books. Then people settled into a few different conversations. We also had a soon-to-be Knight ask for ideas for his elevation which was pretty awesome. I think next year I will see if someone else is willing to host the round-table though, so I can save that teaching slot for another class. 

Both of my knotwork classes went well. The first one had 15 people, pretty much all of whom picked up the knotwork with no problems. The second one had about 18 people (which is really pushing the limit on the number of people the scribal tents can hold), some of whom showed up part way through. This class didn't go quite as smooth but I think by the end it had at least mostly clicked for everyone. 

I got questions about an advanced knotwork class in both classes, so next year I am planning on holding my advanced insular scrolls class. Hopefully I will have at least one chance to vet it again between now and then. 

I didn't go to very many classes this war for a variety of reasons. There were not that many classes that caught my eye (I was the only one teaching Irish/Celtic classes other than one other knotwork class, and there was a lack of early period classes in general), and most of the ones I wanted to go to conflicted with something else. Also I thoroughly over-peopled myself in the first couple of days of war with my garb/round-table classes and the a&s display, and the weather was not conductive to wanting to get out and about being either hot and sticky or raining. 

Overall Pennsic was fun. I was sad to leave but also glad to be home. Looking forward to getting re-focused on getting research and projects done with some renewed Pennsic energy. 

Coming soon will be a post on all my books, hopefully followed by a series of posts on individual books. I am also actually doing some tablet weaving and have the pages all lined for the next section of the psalter.

Pennsic is Coming!

posted Jul 21, 2016, 7:08 AM by Melissa Milner   [ updated Jul 21, 2016, 7:12 AM ]

Pennsic is coming and I will be there! 

I am teaching/facilitating four classes this year:
My Irish Womens garb class - Noon to 2 on the middle Sunday (8/7) in AS 7 
Early Period Irish Roundtable which is scheduled for 11 to 1pm on the Monday of War Week (8/8) in AS 15
And two sessions of Celtic Knotwork 5 dot technique Wednesday and Thursday (8/10 & 8/11) in AEthelmearc Royal 2 from 2 to 3

The handouts for the garb and knotwork classes are already up on the classes page. 

In addition I will be displaying on Sunday at the A&S display which runs from 1 to 5 though I will not be able to get to my table until 2 since I am teaching. 

Come by, say hi, talk to me about awesome Irish stuffs!

I hope to have a good follow up post after Pennsic with pictures and information and stuff (and you know, maybe actually get the motivation to Update this site!)

Artifacts of a Life II!

posted Sep 28, 2015, 7:25 PM by Melissa Milner   [ updated Sep 28, 2015, 7:30 PM ]

So despite my assurances that I would be better about updating this site, I have been mostly silent for the last month. But I promise it was for a good reason!

Over the past month I have been scrambling to get together all of the things that I wanted to display for the Artifacts of a Life Competition (this being the same competition that spurred me to try my hand at bone comb making and my shaggy brat). You can read a report of the competition here: http://eastkingdomgazette.org/2015/09/28/an-account-of-artifacts-of-a-life-ii/

(Photo by Mistress Ygraine - taken from the Gazette article)

This year I decided to have me entries all being related to the life of a late 8th century Irish Monk. For this I made the first quire of a Psalter, the cover for a Psalter, a sieve for sacramental wine, and a prayer cord.

While I did not win this time, I did receive the prize from Her Excellency Carolingia for being her favorite and 'bringing prayer to life'. Religion was so central to much of people's lives during the SCA period, but it is something which we do not really re-create much of.

Artifacts is my favorite A&S Competition, I love the idea of trying to create a cohesive set of items that could have belonged to/been used by a single person. 

Pictures from the Wexford National Heritage Park in Ireland from the Monastic site

Life of a late 8th Century Irish Monk - The story connecting my items

A young monk lives at a monastery in the heart of Ireland during the late 700s. There he is learning a great many things and practices his devotion to his faith. He works most of his days in the scriptorium where he has recently moved up from aiding in the preparation of materials to being able to actually work on a transcription of his own manuscripts. A patron of the monastery has commissioned a psalter for his household which will both aid in the practice of their faith and be used to teach his children to read.

In addition to the work in the scriptorium, where religious texts are scribed alongside accounts of the history, learning, and culture of the land, our young monk must also spend some of his days aiding in the more mundane tasks of the monastery. Cooking, planting, and caring for animals are all essential to the function of the monastery, as is teaching those who come seeking the knowledge this place holds.

Each day, regardless of the tasks being performed, revolves around a cycle of prayer and worship. Part of this cycle of prayer revolves around the reciting of all of the psalms, broken up throughout the day in three sets of 50. While our young friend has the psalms committed to memory, he does use a knotted cord to enable him to keep track of which psalm he is reciting. Additionally sometimes he helps his elders with the blessing of the sacramental wine. He is working hard to learn all he can in the hopes that he might one day rise in the ranks of his brothers.

8th Century Psalter

The Story

Here we have the beginnings of a psalter. This first quoire contains the first 24 psalms with each psalm beginning with an illuminated capital. We see a highly decorated carpet page at the front of the psalter and the first word of psalm 1 has been fully illuminated as was traditional. 

The Evidence

My psalter’s formatting is based primarily off of the recently found Faddan More Psalter with illumination and calligraphy more closely matching the Book of Kells . Following the standard decoration practice of the time, each psalm in the Faddan More Psalter begins with an illuminated capital and the opening words of psalms 1, 51, and 101 are more highly decorated. There also appears to be a more highly decorated initial page. The text of the psalter is the Vulgate Latin version of the psalms. The Faddan More consisted of 60 sheets of vellum and was written around 800 AD. The Book of Kells also dates to approximately 800.

The Making and Learning
  • First 24 Psalms in vulgate latin
  • Pergamenata (vegetable parchment) used in place of vellum due to cost
  • Iron Gall Ink for calligraphy as used in period
  • Red lead, orpiment, synthetic ultramarine, and verdigris all used in contemporary manuscripts
  • While I have folded the folios I have not bound them together yet but will do so with linen thread when the full psalter is complete
I had intended to get the first 41 to match the number of pages in the Faddan More psalter, but miscalculated the sizing of the calligraphy. Having done this I now see just how easily it would have been to repeat lines or words and how you can not scrap the page as easily as we tend to do for scrolls with large mistakes because as many as 3 other pages might have to be redone as well. 

I am happy with how this came out overall. It is my first experience working with iron gall ink and period pigments and I havn't died (which is actually a concern as orpiment contains arsenic, and red lead isn't great for you either). I will continue working on this psalter and will provide updates as I get more of it finished

Psalter Cover


The Story

Wrapped around the first quoire of the psalter was a cover. This cover would have been used for the whole psalter once it was complete. The inside was lined with papyrus which came all the way from the holy land with the return of one of the pilgrims from the monastery. On the outside of the cover our young monk appears to have practiced some of the designs which would be used within.

The Evidence

This cover is entirely based on the cover found with the Faddan More Psalter. That cover was found to have three horn buttons, was lined with papyrus, and had practice designs painted on the outside in a carbon based ink.

The Making and Learning
  • Buttons made from white tail deer antler, period ones likely made red tail deer or other period horn. Hand saw used to cut the buttons, but dremel used for holes instead of a period pump drill
  • Papyrus is attached using modern gelatin which is the fairly equivalent to period Collagen-based glues
  • Piece of wool yarn used as the string to hold the cover closed, no evidence remained of what was originally used.
  • I used a carbon based ink for the trial decorations on the cover since that is what was found on the period piece 
This was by far my favorite of the items I created. While the psalter is shiny and eye catching, this drew me in with its simplicity and its practical-ness. Also it was kind of fun getting to use leather I won at the last competition as part of an item in this one. 


Left - My Attempt
Right - Extent example, photo from the Irish Archaeology Twitter page

The Story

An important part of Mass is the ritual partaking of the body of Christ. As part of this ritual one drinks the sacramental wine. Part of what made the sacramental wine was the ritual straining of it and as a result we find numerous decorative sieves and ladles which appear to have been used to this purpose.

The Evidence

The early Christian church was still defining the rituals that the holy ceremonies would revolve around. One of these rituals is the blessing of the sacramental wine. According to Isaiah 25:6, "well-strained wines" should be used in the celebration of the rituals. Several decorative sieves and ladles have been found in Ireland and it is believed that they were used for this purpose.

My sieve is based on one which was found in the Moylarg Crannog and is on display in the National Museum of Archaeology in Dublin. The original is brass with a handle of iron which appears to have been a very basic replacement for whatever the original handle was.

The Making and Learning
  • 9 inch diameter disk of 0.016 inch thick brass hammered into a bowl shape.
  • Triskele design incised onto sieve 
  • Holes punched using hammer and nails
  • Handle left off as we do not know what the original handle may have been like
Hammering a flat thing into a rounded thing is much harder than it seems and took numerous failed attempts to achieve even my imperfect attempt. At the event I received a number of tips on what I should do to improve my results. 

I was really not very happy with how this turned out, but I am glad I entered it anyway. I got some good tips on how I can make it better and I intend to give it another try. If I can master getting it into the shape I want I will give some thought on what to actually do for handle. 

Knotted Prayer String

The Story

An important part of the daily life of monks in the monasteries in ireland during the the time after Patrick was the recitation of the psalms in 3 sets of 50. As part of this ritual they would count the psalms on knotted ropes of wool either of a full 150 knots, or of 50 in the breaking up of the psalms. This practice of prayer connected to a physical object eventually transferred to the laity and later becomes was we know of as paternosters and rosaries.

The Evidence

Knotted cords, pebbles, beads, and beaded strings have all been variously used to count prayers, both in the Christian faith and in other religions, notably the Hindus who have been doing so since several centuries BC. In Ireland we see references to this starting in the 7th century, possibly relating to the traditions started by St Columba or brought back by missionaries from contact with the Coptic church.

The Making and Learning

Handspun (not by me) Wool Yarn braided in 3 strand braid using technique similar to whipcording (3 strands chosen to represent the trinity)
Larger knots made to indicate each 10 and 50 knots

This was a fun simple addition that I think gave a really tangible feel to the persona I was creating. Next time if I make one of these it will be with my own homespun yarn (my only current string, all of which is currently on the spindle is a slightly darker shade then the back cloth in the picture, it just didn't seem like it would convey the right feeling).

Return From War!

posted Aug 9, 2015, 2:49 PM by Melissa Milner   [ updated Aug 9, 2015, 2:55 PM ]

I have just returned home from a fabulous War and really am going to make good on my promise to be better about updating this site because I met some fabulous people at war and there was a lot of reinvigorating of focus and energy for research and doing things. 

First of foremost my Irish Women's Dilemma Class went astoundingly well. Thank you to the over 40 people who showed up and helped to make it an engaging class and keeping me rolling be asking great questions. At the request of several I am working on setting up a group over on the book of faces for those of us looking for resources for Early Christian and Viking Age Irish personas, particularly in clothing but other resources are great too. The group is SCA Irish - Early Christian and Viking Age there aren't many people or resources there yet but hopefully that will change soon as people settle in and return from war. 

I also got a lot of people started on the addicting journey of celtic knotwork and have helped some people with the basics start toward more period and complicated designs. I learned a lot about how to teach the advanced class that I hope will help me to improve it for next year. 

I also took an awesome class that has gotten me started with period pigments, I look forward to trying them out soon!

Overall war was great and look for a flurry of new posts from me in the coming weeks I hope!

Facebook Groups

posted Aug 9, 2015, 2:43 PM by Melissa Milner   [ updated Aug 10, 2015, 11:20 AM ]

At my garb class at Pennsic, I mentioned that there are a bunch of awesome Facebook groups for research and such and that is really the only reason I am still there. I was asked to provide a list of the groups I follow, so here they are (minus household and regional specific ones)

SCA General:
Ask the Laurels - Group for non-Laurels to ask about what it is like to be a Laurel and questions about the path to becoming a Laurel
Apprentices' Alley - Group for those in a relationship with a Laurel who would like a safe place to talk the Laurels will not see 
SCA Heraldry Chat - Want help with your heraldry or want to do Heraldry, this is a good place to start
Artisan Support Network - Group for help in documentation for SCA A&S
SCA Library of Alexandria - Research Help Group
SCA Ask A Librarian - Another Research Help Group
SCA Anthropology - Group looking at the differences between kingdoms and the history behind why things are the way they are
SCA Persona Research - Group to help people looking to develop their personas

Historic Tablet Weaving - This is a wonderfully supportive group for anyone wanting to try their hand at tablet weaving 
Historic Hand Embroidery - Similarly awesome group for embroidery of all time periods
Historic Fabric Weaving - Similarly useful group for larger scale weaving
SCA Garb - General Garb Group 
SCA Scribes - General Scribal Group
SCA Scribes and Illumination - General Scribal Group
SCA Scroll Gallery - General Scribal Picture Group
SCA Arts and Sciences  - General A&S Group
Period Costuming Support Group - Non SCA Specific, but lots of knowledgeable people 
Vikings of the SCA - General Viking SCA Group
Viking Clothing - This group is for serious reenactors (ie don't mention the SCA and try to stay away from questions on how to cheat authenticity), but is a great source of knowledge
Viking Clothing (SCA-style) - The slightly more forgiving version of the above group
Viking Era Textiles and Fiber Arts - great group for early fiber stuff
Bone, Antler, Ivory, and Horn Carving - great group for those interested in the mentioned types of craving 
Luceteers - small group for those interested in Lucet

Irish Specific 
Éire of the Middle Ages (SCA) - Ok group on Ireland, but it tends to be a bit all over
Dark Ages SCA (Post Roman Britain Discussion and Research) - I just found this group and it covers the whole British Isles, it looks useful, though quiet
The Photographic Archive of Irish Archaeology - pretty Irish archaeology photos and info
Caislean na Cnamha - Gallowglass Irish Group 
SCA Celts and Early Period - reasonably good group that runs the gamut of way early through later period. 

Irish Archaeology:
UCD Experimental Archaeology - University College Dublin's Experimental Archaeology School's group where they post the fascinating things they are doing and make me wish I went into academia...
Togher: Irish Raised Bog Archaeology - Interesting group with the latest on archaeology for raised bogs in Ireland
EMVARG (Early Medieval and Viking Age Research Group) - Great group for research and archaeology from the UCD Archaeology School 
Cherrymount Crannog Crisis - Originally set up in response to issues with a Crannog dig, now a place for archaeology info 

Pages - in addition to the groups, there are a number of pages I follow
EMAP - Early Medieval Archaeology Project - these people are awesome!

Know of others that might be of interest? list them in the comment and I will check them out! 

Greetings! and no really I will get better at updates....

posted Jul 31, 2015, 4:43 AM by Melissa Milner


I am off to the Pennsic War(if you are unfamiliar, this is a great article about it http://citypaper.net/cover/reports-from-a-medieval-war/)  later today and will be teaching classes and talking to people, which will likely draw at least a few people to this site. I promise that once I get back from war I will work on updating this site and working on actually recording some of the research I have been doing. If you have any questions, feel free to post on the discussion board 

In the meantime, here are the handouts for the 3 classes I am teaching next week: 

Advanced Celtic Knotwork

Intro to Celtic Knotwork


Myriad of Recent Projects and a vow to be better about updating things...

posted Feb 2, 2015, 3:05 PM by Melissa Milner

It has been most of a year since I last updated and I have not been idle, I have just been busy, mostly with getting married and being crazy enough to make and embroider my own dress. . . 

So here are some pictures of the things I have done in the past year:
First and foremost of the projects of the last year was my Wedding dress (also my husbands clothes as well. Both of our clothes are mostly regency period (with mine being a nice and easy simplicity pattern and his being fussy historical patterns. My dress has lots of embroidery - Stem and Satin stitch to bring out the pattern on the back of the gold overdress, couched gold-work in an interlace pattern at the top of the bodice of the under dress, and about a 3 inch wide band of knot-work in satin and split stitch halfway around the hem of the under dress. All told I was working on my dress and his clothed for a good 8 months or so.

I have also done a number of scrolls over the past year. Most have been in the style of the Book of Kells, but I did one in the style of Roman Mosaics and one in the style of a French Medical manuscript. I a currently working on a scroll for my husband which I will write up a longer post about.

A couple of other things I did this year - A brass mirror etched using a dremel (based on this etruscan mirror: http://mysteriouswritings.com/etruscan-mirror-showing-a-foot-symbolically-placed-upon-a-rock/ ) made for the East Kingdom Artisans Exchange (an artisan secret swap) and two enameled medallions I made in a class (I can take no credit on the designs, just on putting the pretty colors in). 

Other than that I did a few projects for Christmas presents and bridesmaid thank yous, and probably one or two other things. 

I also have a lot on deck for the next year, including:

Second half of the Shaggy Brat project
Embroidery of my heraldry which has now passed and is all official like
Banner with my heraldry
Metal sieve (Like seen here: )https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/52/b6/a8/52b6a81721821d80f5fafef03ecdfd83.jpg from the Moylarg Crannog
Psalter (basing mine off the Faddan More Psalter: http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/focus-on-the-faddan-more-psalter.aspx)
Book Shrine to put the Psalter in (this is a big maybe, but it would be nice)
More garb (for myself and helping people learn)

I am sure there will be more. I am also going to work on getting more of my research up here (starting with a new fully annotated list of links). I will also try to get a post up about some of the awesome stuff I learned on our honeymoon to the UK and Ireland!

Overall looking forward to the next year of being creative and free from major school and life commitments (knocks on wood)!

Links to Stuff

posted Apr 18, 2014, 9:38 AM by Melissa Milner   [ updated Feb 2, 2015, 3:43 PM ]

I have moved my links to a spreadsheet (which can be seen below) it is easier to update and sort and such. 

I will also be putting it over on the books and links page. I should also have the books updated in a few days or so... 

Links with Category and notes

Some Other Artifacts

posted Jan 28, 2014, 12:05 PM by Melissa Milner

Since I forgot to get around to it, I should really write up the other things I made for the Artifacts of a Life Event. These are my not very well documented pieces which is why I never got around to it. 

The first is a simple drawstring bag for the comb. The bag is made of wool with  cotton thread embroidery. the string for the bag is a lucet cord which we are fairly certain were made in the viking age (http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/lucets.shtml). I also added Posament as a decoration which is a form of wire ornamentation found in the viking graves at Birka: Meisterinne Katheryn Hebenstreitz (© Annika Madejska): Posament: Pretty knots from Birka http://textiletimetravels.org/documentations/. If I do posament again I will attach them to the cloth so that they are not hanging off Because I have quickly learned that they get caught on everything!

My justification for the bag is fairly slim. We know that many if not most people of this period (10th Century) would have had a comb of either wood or bone (based on how many we find and their common occurrence as a grave good) . We also know that they would likely have kept them on their person. Some combs have holes in either their cases or themselves indicating that they were hung from a string, but others do not. This indicates they would have been carried in another manner, such as a bag or in a work basket. I decided that a small bag, embroidered with my family initials, would be a good way to carry the comb. 

The second is a simple inkle woven belt. Inkle weaving is not really of the correct period but I had never done any weaving before and it was a lot less intimidating that tablet weaving (which I am currently learning, but that is another post.)  I got my instructions how to start here: Heroldt, Heather. Beginning Inkle Weaving PDF. My next belt will be tablet woven, but this serves me well in the meantime.

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