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Old Techniques Meet Our New Tech

Just because we make jewelry inspired by museum pieces doesn’t mean we do everything old-fashioned. Brian wouldn’t want to polish stones by rubbing them against another rock, and you can have my jeweler’s saw when you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. On that note, we recently acquired a piece of modern equipment that will help us take our jewelry to the next level!

A LASER PRINTER!

“Are you serious?!” you may be asking, “How can a laser printer help you make jewelry?”

Well, now I can transfer my hand drawings to metal. That means I can engrave, saw and even do acid etching a million times faster than before. But the big kicker is that now I can easily add enamels to my work in ways that won’t make your wallet cry. You get really authentic, REAL glass enameled jewelry, just like what your persona would have worn, and I get to feed the Little One and have electricity and make more beautiful things.

It’s a win-win!

Here’s my first test piece, along with a little pendant I made to go with it. It was inspired by this brooch from Roman Britain.

Look for some gorgeous antiqued and enamelled pieces in the shop soon!

So – What would You like to see Enameled? Celtic Knotwork? Medieval Monograms? Let me know in the Comme

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Coming Soon – Viking Coloring Page!

After an entire year of drawing every day as a personal challenge, I’ve found that I’m itching to draw again. But what to draw? Well, since lots of you like coloring I decided to make a special historically-themed coloring page for my email subscribers.
It’s not finished just yet, but I’m working on it. If you don’t follow my Instagram, here’s a preview:

 

Oseberg Lion Post Adult Coloring Page Preview
Yep, it’s the Viking Oseberg Ship lion(?) post. I’ve always thought the interlacing looked a bit of a mess, compared to the neatly ordered knotwork I’m used to seeing in things like The Book of Kells or the Tara Brooch. But now that I’ve drawn it, it makes sense. The rules of Nordic interlace are really close to Celtic ones, but they have a decidedly devil-may-care quality that suits them well. Interlace section not working? Just grow another arm off a nearby curve and you’re good. Want to end a line? Stick a dragon or bird head on the end and bite the closest thing to it.
It’s a very free-spirited form of interlace that I’m excited to keep exploring in my personal drawing and illuminations. At any rate, the finished drawing should be up sometime this week. Be sure to check my FB page, Twitter, or Instagram to find out when.
Do You Like to Color? What’s Your Favorite?

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Make a Roman Fibula Brooch Jewelry Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make a simple pin suitable for hanging whatever you like on it, with just a few tools and some wire. My instructions assume you have some basic experience with jewelry making, but even if you don’t, this is still pretty simple. Practice on some thin, cheap craft wire if this is your first project, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help!

But why do you call it a “fibula”? It looks like a safety pin.

Simple. Because that’s what the Romans called it, and yes, they did invent the safety pin. Here’s a link to a ​super-simple example. Roman pins typically had high backs because they used pins like this to keep their clothes on, and the fabric needed room to bunch up. While the first example is dead simple, others were lavishly decorated, ​like this one. Even the highly decorated fibulae were still intended to be semi-functional.

While this pin is appropriate for light to medium fabrics, I made it specifically for my SCA and Rennie friends to hang favors, bits of largesse, or even small tools on. You could even give these pins as favors with a small starter token already on. These could make great presents for people who make or use beads – There are always a few “orphan” beads laying around they can’t bear to part with!


Tools and Materials
Tools:

  • Round Nose Pliers
  • Chain Nose Pliers – These are for holding, so any pliers with smooth, flat jaws will work.
  • Wire Cutters
  • File
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Safety Glasses – Not kidding on this one. I’ve personally seen people get wire ends flung into their face hard enough to draw blood when they’re just nipping the end off a little coil. If you’re using tools, use eye protection.

Optional Tools:

  • Hammer – I have a chasing hammer, but you can use a normal hardware store ball-pein hammer. It just needs to be flat and relatively smooth so it doesn’t mark up the metal.
  • Steel block – or similar hard surface to hammer on
  • Ear protection. There’s not a lot of hammering, but you should still wear ear protection when you do it.

I tried to use tools that most people I know have laying around the house. If you have fancier/higher quality tools than these, feel free to use them.

Materials:
16 gauge Copper Wire – From the local craft store is fine.
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If you want fancier tools than this or square/triangular/thicker/titanium/whatever wire, here’s some Suppliers:

Just to be clear, I have no connection to these sites, these are just places where I and/or my jeweler friends buy from. Just be careful of your wallet, especially if you’re a tool junkie like me!

 

 

Step 1: Measure, Cut and File

  1. Using the ruler, marker, and wire snips, measure and cut an 11 inch length of wire. If this is your first project, give yourself another inch or two of wiggle room in case you make your loops a bit big. We’ll be cutting the excess off at the end.
  2. ​Round the end off with your file* so it’s smooth. This is the end we’ll start working with.

* Most files only work one way – When you “push” the file away from you. This is copper, so there’s no reason to go crazy and muscle it. Just move your arm forward and let the file do the work.

Step 2: Make the Catch

The catch is the part of a pin that secures the pin stem, which is the part that goes through your fabric. Some of this might be tricky, but you can do it!

Picture 1: ​Measure and mark at the 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch points from your just-filed end.

Picture 2 (The Tricky Bit): Using your round nose pliers, make a bend at the 1 inch mark. It won’t be a tight fold like you see here, but that’s where your flat pliers come in. Squeeze the rounded end carefully until you get it nice and tight, as close to this as possible. If you have a hammer and something to hammer on, you can use those to tap the loop down, too.

Picture 3: Make a 90 degree bend at the 1 1/2 inch mark.

Picture 4: Wrap that end around the wire. I recommend using the flat pliers to hold onto the folded part right above the bend, and using the round nose pliers to wrap. You’ll probably need to use the flat pliers to squeeze the end in close to the wire.

Step 3: Make the Hanging Loops

Here’s where you’ll be making the loops, and where you can go crazy with the design. You loops might turn out bigger or smaller than mine, and that’s fine. You might decide you only want three loops, or maybe you have some of those fancy square pliers and want to make diamond-shaped loops. You could even add beads between the loops as you go, or forego the loops all together and add your beads on right now. Go Nuts!

But if you’re just starting out, keep following along.

Picture 1: Make a 90-degree bend right under your catch, and make a mark about 1/4″ in. This will be the top of your loop. I made my loops at about the midway point on the jaws of my round nose pliers.* You can make them wherever you like, depending on how big you want your loops.

Picture 2: I’m figuring out where I want the top of my next loop to be. For me, it turned out that 3/8″ away from the top of my first loop would look the best, so I marked it. You want to keep some space between your loops so you have space for all the cool things you’re going to dangle from them. My loops are 1/4″ wide, so I put in an extra 1/8″ buffer. Alternatively, you could always just make your next loop where you want it and use that as a guide for spacing. Whatever works for you to keep it consistent.

Picture 3: Make the other loops, being sure to keep their size and spacing even. This is the more fiddly part, but congrats! You’re almost done!

*Feel free to mark your jaws with your marker so you always bend the wire in the same spot. This keeps your loops nice and even. If you don’t want to mark them up, a shred of masking tape wrapped around one of the jaws works just as well.


Step 4: Even It Out

Chances are good that your pin is looking quite loopy and nice, but it’s probably a little wobbly. Here’s where we fix that.*

Picture 1: Looks a little wavy, doesn’t it? That won’t lay right when you’re wearing it, so let’s take care of that.

Picture 2: Put on your ear protection (do it) and give it a few gentle taps with your hammer. You don’t want to hammer it, or otherwise you’ll flatten the wire and get horrible squash marks where they cross over. You just want to even it out.

Picture 3: Nice and even! Much better, isn’t it?

*You could always squish it between some books or carefully bend it straight with your hands if you don’t have a hammer. So long as it’s flat.

 

 

 

Step 5: Make the Spring & Finish the Catch

Picture 1: Using the lowest point on your round nose pliers, wrap a loop of wire with the end going back over your hanging loops. This is the spring part of your pin.

Picture 2: Looking mighty pin-like, isn’t it?

Picture 3: Now you can bend the end of the catch over so it actually “catches” the pin stem.*

Picture 4: Almost done!

*We didn’t do this earlier because the wire tends to get caught in it while you’re making the hanging loops if you do.

Step 6: Trim & File the Pin Stem

Picture 1:
Catch the stem and use your cutters to nip off the extra wire. Don’t cut too close, or else it might come undone easily. Keep about 1/4″ on the end.

Picture 2:
File it sharp. You don’t need a long needle point on this, just enough so it can get between the fibers.

Picture 3:
Nice and pointy, like a little cone.

Picture 4:
You’re done! High Five! ^_^

Variations & Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, there’s a lot of variation to be had here. You can use thinner or thicker wire, square wire, or colored wire. You could hammer the loops for texture or leave them off altogether. You can replace the loops with a fun squiggle or a pattern, or add beads.

I want you to take this Tutorial and make something beautiful with it.

Make a couple of these to start, then go nuts! I’d like you to comment with links back to your creations so we can all see them!

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12th Night Sale!

12th Night Celebrations. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Starting today, I’m having a special sale where I discount a different piece of jewelry every evening for 12 nights!

I will post the discounted items on the home page and in my Featured Items on the storefront here. I will also put posts on Instagram, which will automatically go to Facebook and Twitter, so however you like to follow me, keep your eyes peeled! Oh, and they will STAY discounted throughout the sale, so you’ll have plenty of time for the first item, but not so much the last.

“But Brandy,” you ask, “why am you calling it a 12th Night Sale? Isn’t it the 12 Days of Christmas? And why are you starting on the 8th?”

Well, here’s some history for you. In Medieval times,12th night was a special celebration for Epiphany, which falls 12 days after Christmas. In some places it was celebrated right on or before the holiday, but the Coucil of Tours in the 6th century officially extended it to include all 12 days after Christmas. That’s where we get the song we can’t remember the last half of. Here in America, we have our “Days of Christmas” before Christmas, but the old tradition still stands in parts of Europe today.

“Oh, that explains it,” you say, “But why start on the 8th and not the 12th?”

That one’s simple: Shipping. I know items ordered on the last days won’t make it to California or Alaska from here in Pittsburgh in time for the holiday, but if you live on the East Coast there’s a good chance they will. I also wanted to offer some items left from the Sweetwater Holiday mART (Thank you very much, by the way!) and I get them back tomorrow.

I also have a show in Lawrenceville coming up on the 19th, whcih you’ll hear more about later in the week. So, please share the sale pieces with your friends, and make me the busiest elf in Aethelmearc!

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November is for Topaz

Topaz! It’s such a versatile, colorful birthstone. It comes in blue, orange, white, gold, pink, brown, green – Almost the entire rainbow! November folks are lucky, because topaz is believed to garner success in all endeavors. Different colors were believed to have different effects, such as yellow for wealth and blue for insight.

Today, you often see white topaz as an alternative to diamonds in jewelry. Thanks to modern science, there are an abundance of treatments that can be applied to topazes to induce brilliant plays of color that you can’t find anywhere else. They’re usually marketed as “Mystic Topaz” and they’re made with chemical coatings, heating, radiation, or a mix of all three! In fact, my engagement ring has a green/purple Mystic Topaz in it. The mix of color was made by coating the stone with a thin layer of titanium before irradiating it.

Which kind of topaz is YOUR favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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Coming Soon: New Parent Charm Collection

Finally! Charms for us who want sentimental jewelry that’s classy and nerdy!

What you’re looking at are the castings for my new line of charms, which debuted at Pennsic. We’ll be casting another run of them in sterling silver this weekend or early next week.

So what are they, exactly? These charms are meant for parents to wear in honor of their children. You’ve probably seen similar ones; charms that are shaped like people, usually with birthstones. While the idea is wonderful, the current selection in stores is pretty limited in terms of style.

My new line or parent charms was inspired by heraldry and cadency marks indicating birth order. Diamond shapes are for your daughters, while shields are for sons. The symbols on them show which order they were born in. The bridge-like shape, called a label, is for firstborns, the crecent moon for second, and so on. I’ve been able to find records of marks up to the double-digits, but I’ve decided to go up to five for now.

Once the second run is finished, we’ll be able to photograph them and put them up on the site for sale! There will also be an option to add birthstones or other personalization options for later runs.

I have an organizational question for you: Should I add the charms to the Pendant section, or make a new one specifically for Charms? Let me know in the comments!

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Triforce Chainmaille Dice Bag Tutorial

Legend of Zelda Triforce Chainmaille Pouch tutorial You can learn to make chainmaille!

Here’s a tutorial I made for a chainmaille bag that you can use to hold your gaming dice, spare change, or what-have-you. While not a complete beginner’s guide to chainmaille, if you can make this bag, you can make a coif, a shirt, a bikini, or even a wall hanging. I’ve heard from a lot of people who’ve never made chainmaille before that they were able to make their own Triforce dice bags!

Click Here to get the PDF

Click Here for the tutorial on Instructables

If you make a chainmaille dice bag (or something else) from this tutorial, let me know in the comments. I want to see it!

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FREE Reference Books!

Screencap of MOMA page

The Met Publications Page has everything!

Guess what? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has put hundreds of their journals, books, and teaching guides online FOR FREE. You can read them, download them, buy them, and even get some of them printed on demand if you want to throw money at them.

Do you like to make garb? Guess what? You can search by “Collection/Department” and hit up The Costume Institute. Send the fighters over to the books on the Arms and Armor collection. I’ve been giggling like a maniac by just typing “Jewelry” into the Keyword box so I can Download All The Things.

So please, tell your friends, tell that cousin who loves to paint, that friend who’s really into cosplay, and send them to MOMA’s Met Publications Page. There’s literally something for everyone. If you only want to look for free downloads, make sure you select Download PDF under “Format” when you begin your search. Once you find a book you’d like, hit “More” and it’ll take you to that book’s page, where you can select what options they have available for that particular title. The screencap up top gives you an idea.

So, what are YOU looking for? Have you found a great resource? Share it in the comments so we can all see it!

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Dinner from the 14th Century

PicturePreparing Lombard Chicken Pasties from The Medieval Cookbook by Maggic Black

This is something I never thought I’d do: a blog post on cooking. Why? Because I’m a terrible cook. I have set ramen on fire in the microwave. Several times. I have no idea how I set noodles in water on fire, but I am strangely proud that I did. I’ve killed toasters, destroyed pans, and extinguished more kitchen fires than I can remember. Ask my first college roomie. I started a fire the first dinner we had together. (Hi, Rachael! Sorry I still owe you an oven mitt. And a pan.)

So, yeah – I suck at cooking.

Brian makes all the food, but he’s got a lot of stones to cut and the final edit of his book to finish, so he’s asked me to try my hand at cooking again. I agreed, but I hate cooking. To make it fun and interesting for me, I bought two cookbooks on Amazon.

HISTORICAL COOKBOOKS.

I got The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black and The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. They arrived Saturday, and I decided to try the “Lombard Chicken Pasties” from The Medieval Cookbook for dinner. Now, these aren’t your typical cookbooks. They’re full of historical information, including cultural notes about how and when food was served. If you’re like me and like to learn as much as you can, however and whenever you can, these are perfect. When I realized that I had spent more than an hour reading a cookbook without even thinking about cooking, I knew I’d made a good buy.

Out of respect to the author I’m not posting the recipe, but they were easy to make, even for someone like me. Most importantly, they were delicious! The Little One loved them! I did make the mistake of not pricking the tops of the pasties before I put them in the oven, though. Considering how my cooking escapades usually turn out, I’m happy I only had to clean up the filling that leaked out and got baked on the pan.

I had planned to throw a steam bag of veggies in the microwave to go with them but I forgot, and I’m glad I did. These things are filling! Granted, I did use slightly more chicken than was called for, but only by a tiny bit. They’re just filling. There were three left over, and while I have them in the fridge for leftover night, I imagine that they would freeze really well.


PictureSo delicious! I have a feeling this will become a regular dinner item.

So far, cooking like it’s 1399 is working out.

Have you ever tried your hand at historical cooking? If you have, tell me about it in the comments; I’m eager to learn!

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