Linen postcard scrap quilt

Posted by on Saturday, December 30th, 2017

I came across Postcards from Sweden a few years ago, and loved it, and promptly forgot about it.  But then a friend made one, and I gave some thought to the ludicrous piles of linen scraps in my studio, and jumped in.  I will end up with a different palette, because my scraps tend to be darker or sadder than the colors in the original, but I can accept that. I also reached out to friends to see if they had scraps they wanted to part with, and a couple of people were very generous.  I have enough to piece the top without cutting into yardage. 

I opted to start with 6″ squares and cut those into half-square triangles, knowing I’d wind up with much smaller blocks once seam allowances and the difficulties of working with linen came into play. 

Using linen for quilts requires a lot of seam finishing, so I tend to piece with my serger to keep the whole thing from disintegrating.  I build in big seam allowances as well, and try to make up for an increased risk of biasing and stretching when I use garment fabrics.  You can see that the serged seam is larger than the standard scant 1/4 inch most quilters use when piecing.  That is all damage control, so I work with it.  As I piece and press, I  am careful not to stretch that biased edge I’m joining.  Linen quilts call for lots of pressing, of course, so I tend to save them for the winter when my studio is otherwise cold.  I do sometimes also starch or use some other sort of pressing spray to try to make up for the stretch and give of garment fabrics.

Once I had the fabrics all cut, I set up the stacks and did my best to select pairings randomly.  I had to coerce myself to put some colors together that I normally wouldn’t. 

And then, the trimming.  I kid you not about linen’s tricksie ways.  That is a relatively well pieced block, but the looser weave, the biased edges, and the serged seam all come together to cause some oddities.  

Aggressive trimming is necessary.  I opt to do most things as if I’m on a production line, so I turned to a good ruler with a 45 degree mark and a rotating mat.  I’m trimming batches of four at a time.  If I didn’t plan to start joining blocks soon, I would wait on this.  Trimming is taking off those chains of stitches that help make serged seams last, so the trimmed squares are fragile. 

Now, to play with layout options.  I still need to piece 100 or so squares, but I want time to mull over setting in the meantime.  I have a lot of deep blues and reds, so I can rely on them for structure if I want it, or I can fight that urge and lean on improvisation for movement.  I’m not liking diagonal striping. 

But this could work:

I will likely haul out the design wall. 

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You call yourselves Bards?

Posted by on Monday, October 23rd, 2017

This was my challenge for the Celtic component of the Bardic Quest at War of the Wings, 2017.  Boasts have a particular prominence in Celtic mythology: the most famous is the Song of Amergin, but the boasts in Mac Datho’s Pig are also notable. 

You call yourselves Bards? That word is mine–
My Mother Tongue gave it breath.
My mouth its home.
My lungs its fuel.
My eyes its guide.
My hands its weapons.
My head its hearth.
Call me Fili, Ollam,
And know what heights I reach.
I speak the féth fíada to wrap my kin in mist,
Then call up War itself
To tear my foes asunder.
I tangle my enemy’s bowels
And rob sleep from his home with a quip.
I pull tears from your eyes or
Laughter from your belly on a whim.

My knife is sharp–my tongue much sharper.
My wits keen and true.
My lips speak a spell to capture multitudes.
I break ensnaring fetters with my voice alone
And call all eyes to see an unjust man
Or a woman’s unbreakable strength.
I sing of the struggle not the fight,
And praise the rabble who resist the strong
Until they themselves rise victorious
To supplant their masters in the minds of men.
One who claims yesterday’s triumph
Must fear my song today
For ere long my verse will recast the tale
In favor of those whose deeds
Most please the Muse.

If you would claim My Word as your own,
Prove your worth. Speak your power.
If Bright Brigid blesses you, take your place at my side.
If you fail, utter “minstrel” only when you name your trade
And speak not of yourself as “Bard” henceforth.

© 2017 Lanea verch Kerrigan/Amy Ripton

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Song of Amergin

Posted by on Monday, October 2nd, 2017

It dawned on me I had never translated this most famous passage from Irish mythology, so I set to work.  From Lebor gabála Érenn: The book of the Invasions of Ireland. I worked from the text here. 

Audio file

Am gáeth i mmuir. ar domni.
Am tond trethan i tír.
Am fúaim mara.
Am dam secht ndírend.
Am séig i n-aill.
Am dér gne.
Am caín.
Am torc ar gail.
Am hé i llind.
Am loch i mmaig
Am briandai.
Am bri danae.
Am gai i fodb. feras feochtu.
Am dé delbas do chind codnu.
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe.
Cia on cotagair aesa éscai
Cia dú i llaig funiud grene.
Cia beir búar o thig Temrach.
Cia buar Tethrach. tibi.
Cia dain.
Cia dé delbas faebru. a ndind ailsiu.
Cáinté im gaí cainte gaithe. Am.


I am the wind on the sea–the depths.
I am a wave storming the land.
I am the roar of the Ocean.
Mine are the seven antlers.
I am a falcon on a cliff.
I am the Sun’s own tear.
I am Beauty.
I am a boar of fury.
I am a salmon in a pool.
I am a lake in a meadow.
I am the Pinnacle of Poetry.
I am the flaming word.
I am the spear of the spoils– War’s work.
I stoke the fire in the head.
Who marks the path to the mountain’s peak?
Who invokes the ages of the Moon?
Who guides the setting sun?
Who leads the cattle from Temrach’s abode?
Who do Tethra’s Sparkling kine adore?
Which Poet?
Who hones the sharpest edges, the fortress fosters?
Who sings the Spear-Song, the Wind-Song, but I?

Translation © 2017 Amy Ripton

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Posted by on Monday, September 25th, 2017

So, this happened

Mine is the penultimate piece.  

It was interesting to be recorded.  Like many people, I had a hard time getting used to the sound of myself, but I think I’ve now messed with recordings enough now that I do indeed recognize my own voice at a remove. Everyone involved with this project has been an absolute joy to work with. I can’t really fathom how much time and energy Gideon/Steve puts into this project of his, but I’m grateful for the podcast.  I love that my poem is included with Bryce’s and Lasair’s.

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Posted by on Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

The Fyrdraca is a reproduction ship built in 1979 by the venerable Longship Company and sold to some intrepid kooks in 2003–it made its way to my friend Richard, and he still keeps her afloat after all this time.  I’m busy and happy and writing, and hoping some day soon to see her in person again after so many years. 

Audio file

for Richard Jones and the Fyrdraca’s crew

I lay abed, and quiet,
No cry pulled me from sleep.
Rather, a soft sound on the wind
as from waves on shingle–
though no lapping water dares
reach so far inland.

I heard her name then, beckoning,
and knew my kin had reached water
countless miles from my door,
and would soon sail that storied ship
built so near my home
then borne beyond foot’s reach.
She was washed by salt water,
on voyages through brackish and briny
over delta and bay and sea
until her builders turned from her
to some other craft
and sold her off to one
with simpler dreams and stronger hands.
He hoisted her high and carted her
countless days’ journey overland,
crossing range and river
to sail a sweet-water lake year upon year
till she falters some sad day long hence
as will we all.

I call him brother, the Fyrdraca’s helmsman
but his names are countless and rich:
wisdom-bearer, fire-striker,
leather-shaper, knot-reader,
log-splitter, blade-honer
hammer-wielder, bronze-pourer,
skull-shielder, spear-bearer
ship-builder, tent-stitcher,
master-teacher, pelican-knight:
My first snowy-girdled friend.

My people have long clung to the shore
or climbed the slopes above,
lingering just beyond the reach of cresting wave
or claiming the craggier heights
with longer views.
Now I long to leave our foothills;
turning my back to the salt sea
and traveling west
bearing what gifts I’ve been given
by mother’s blood or teacher’s words
as all I have to pay my passage–
What value dappled eyes and nimble hands?
Sharp-tongue and honeyed throat?
Or will it be shuttle and needle buy my right
to board this ship that lured me
to and from my tribes and back again.

Though I know nothing of sailing
I will trust her hull,
well-shaped and tended 
by those who love the water 
but need the air.
My kith will coax her 
with oar and sail
to glide above the waves–
Cradling them between the two.

A year or a day from now,
let me see that green flag
fly by the shore
to call me to the beach.
Let me hear that horn blow,
and her name ring out
on the voices of my friends,
loud enough to know each throat’s own pitch.
Let me see each lip’s sly curl of daring and joy
And let all that
drown this whispered reminder
of their travel beyond my reach
this lonesome day.


© 2017 Amy Ripton


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Posted by on Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Krupnik is a Polish spiced honey cordial, which my friend Scot introduced to be ten or fifteen years ago.  I learned to make it from my friend Jenny and took to altering the recipe to fit my palate.  The method I’ve devised is far from traditional at this point, but produces something less sweet and with a deeper flavor than many krupniks I’ve sampled over the years.  The recipe can easily be scaled up or down–we tend to make one huge batch every winter and decant it from an infusion jar as needed. For that reason, we attempt to limit options for mold growth–honey itself does not generally mold–nor does vodka or other high proof liquor.  Water and fresh fruit can introduce possibilities for mold growth, so I avoid using them in most instances.  I also don’t add the liquor to hot honey, because I don’t want to catch the liquor on fire or aerosolize it.

Lanea’s Krupnik

Large stock pot
Large spoon
Rubber spatula
Large glass infusion jar or other large glass vessel for storing the Krupnik while it mellows (the one I used for this mega batch holds six gallons) 
Star-san or other sterilization method
Swing top bottles

15 pounds of honey 
2-3 cups of hot water
10-20 cinnamon sticks
2/3 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup granulated orange peel
1 teaspoon orange oil
6 whole nutmegs
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
(All of the spices are optional–you can use just one, you can omit spices you don’t enjoy, and you can add other spices or flavoring agents like vanilla or allspice.  I do encourage caution with cloves–they can become overpowering very quickly.  If you decide to use fresh orange or lemon peel, keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t mold.)
6-8 1.75 liter bottles of vodka.  You could also use white rum or grain alcohol if you prefer.


  1. Add the honey to the stock pot and rinse out the honey jars with a small amount of hot water.  You want to waste as little honey as possible while also adding as little water as possible to the Krupnik base.
  2. Add the spices and aromatics to the pot
  3. Slowly bring the honey mixture up to a simmer, stirring regularly.  
  4. Continue simmering and stirring the honey mixture until it thickens as the water evaporates and the honey starts to darken.  I like to thoroughly caramelize the honey so the finished Krupnik has a deep flavor.
  5. Do not allow the honey mixture to boil over.  Making honey candy on your stove burners is not ideal.  I’ve done it several times, and I do not find the experience enjoyable.
  6. Spoon out a small sample of the honey, allow it to cool, and taste it.  Adjust your spice mixture if necessary.  The hot honey will draw flavors out of the spices quickly, so this is the best time to adjust things.
  7. Once you are happy with the amount of caramelization and spice in the honey, remove the pot from the heat, put a lid on it, and allow it to cool completely.   

Storing for flavor development:

  1. Select a good spot to store your krupnik for at least a month.  You want it to be out of direct sunlight and kept at a moderate temperature, but you will also want to stir and sample the krupnik regularly while it mellows.
  2. When the honey mixture is completely cool, sterilize your infusion jar using your preferred method.  
  3. Pour the honey mixture from the stock pot into the sterilized infusion jar, using a rubber spatula to get every bit of honey you can into the infusion jar.  This will make everything near you sticky unless you are far more dexterous than the average person.   
  4. Add vodka to the honey, stirring gently to avoid splashing stickiness any further than you already have.  Because I made such a large batch, I moved the infusion jar to its storage location before adding the vodka.  I don’t start with the full 6-8 large bottles of vodka.  For this batch, I added four bottles and let it sit to mellow and will add more later once I get a sense of how the batch is tasting.  I don’t want the final product to be too sweet or too thick, but I also don’t want the honey and spices to be overpowered by the vodka. 
  5. Allow the krupnik to mellow for at least a month, checking it frequently for flavor.  If it seems too sweet or thick, add more vodka.  If the Krupnik reaches a point where you have enough of a particular flavor, feel free to remove that spice.  I’ve strained out cloves after a week or two, removed orange peels after a month, etc.  
  6. Once the krupnik has the flavor you want, decant it into sterilized swing top bottles and enjoy.  

This is just the caramelized honey and spices–you can see how dark the honey is.


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Pen to Paper

Posted by on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I’ve been writing and not mentioning it here, for whatever reason, and organizing thoughts and words into little collections.  Let’s rectify that.

Naming Deirdre’s Mother grew out of my very strong, angry reaction to the treatment of Deirdre and her unnamed mother as I’ve been translating the Exile of the Sons of Usnech into English.

In October, I flew down to Alabama to perform a Sarmatian themed original coronation for my friends Bart and Oda.  Recording and sharing my recitation was new, but fun.  Being there to perform it live was better.

My friend Seamus fought in Crown Tourney here and I wrote and recited an introduction for him and his amazing wife Ardys.

I had the chance to sing out my love for my dear friend Maebh ingen Carthaig.

I’m sure there’s more and I’m not thinking of it, but so it goes.

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Little gifts

Posted by on Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Between the puppy maturing and me adjusting to working from home, I ended up feeling the urge to churn out lots of little gifts this month.  This cowl is in cashmere silk merino, and it’s lovely.

Some socks:

A pile of hats:

I made a bunch of potholders out of quilting cotton scraps:

And several from sweater felt, which are also test blocks for a wool quilt I’m plotting:

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Reworking a vintage fur

Posted by on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Throughout history, people have worn a lot of fur.  When I make clothing for reenactment, I like to get as close as I can to the original pieces, but work within a budget and keep some modern sensibilities in mind.  I don’t object to using leather or hides from herd animals, particularly those we use for meat, but I’m a little hesitant about hunting species like foxes.  We need foxes and other predators, and I’d like the foxes who are alive today to do their foxy work out in the wild.  BUT vintage furs are often readily available if you know where to look, and they can be easily reworked for use in reenactment.  Before you buy a vintage fur, look it over closely for signs of wear and make sure that it’s not too far gone to use.  A lot of old fur preservation techniques used chemicals that made the skin dry and delicate over time, and things we wear for reenactment need to be pretty hearty to last more than a few events.  If you find any holes or worn spots, make sure you don’t overpay for the item.

I got this red fox jacket at an estate sale a couple of years ago.  It’s in decent condition, but it’s far from pristine, and the styling screams “Jackie O!”  I don’t think that’s bad, but I do think it’s fair to say that reworking this into a different garment or two isn’t a crime against fashion.


I started by removing the button and button loop, and then the lining. Linings are generally just whip-stitched into furs, so stripping out the lining only took about ten minutes.  I was gentle as I worked though, since this jacket is made of skins that have been pieced together and it already had a few small holes in it.


When I got to the cuffs, I removed the horizontal bands of fur, since the sleeve shape and cuffs seem like one of the things that most clearly dates the jacket to the 1960s.


You’ll notice that this jacket has a reinforcing fabric inside each of the fur pieces.  That seems to be pretty common, and it helps lend some strength to the pelts, so I left it in place.


Next, I  found spots that would need repair.  In this jacket, there were two weak spots on either side of the neck were seams come together.  I am lucky enough to have a really great sewing machine, so I just ran a quick line of stitches in each spot that needed repair.  If your machine can’t handle this thickness or if you’d rather work by hand, a bit of hand stitching would also work.  A thimble would be helpful, since any sort of leather sewing can be hard on your hands if you’re not used to it.


Once the holes were repaired, I gave some consideration to the final shape I was shooting for.  Even if I took in the sleeves of this little jacket, I think it would still look very 1960s.  That sort of thing is seriously hard to overcome when you’re shooting to rework a modern garment to look like something from a very different part of history.  I have seen evidence of sheepskin and leather jackets and vests in early period garments, but not fox fur.  I also considered the pockets.  Despite what a lot of us heard for years and years, the Huldremose find shows us that pockets did exist in the ancient world.  But these pockets are slash pockets towards the front of the jacket where some pelts come together, and the pockets are made of flannel and pretty ratty . . . and I just don’t know.  They make sense on a jacket, but less so on a capelet.  Right–the pockets are doomed.  So are the sleeves.  Unfortunately the sleeves are raglans rather than set-in sleeves, so the shoulders will require some shaping to lay correctly.  It’s not too daunting, but it’s worth some thought and measurements.


This fur is thin enough that I can pin it like normal fabric, so I started by pinning off the sleeves and pockets and trying it on to see how things laid.  Once I had a shape I liked, I got to stitching.  I tried it on again and once I got all of the lines as smooth as I wanted, I cut off the sleeves and pockets.  I’ll save the sleeves for other projects.  I predict a fox fur hat.


And here is the restructured fur.


Now for a lining.  Slick linings make sense for coats but not for capelets–I hate it when capelets slide all over the place, so I opted for something textured and warm.   Since I just happen to have some vintage hand-woven Scottish wool about the same age as the fur in a beautiful green, I went with that.


I experimented on a scrap to see how obvious machine stitching would be, and the answer was “completely, terribly obvious.”  So I opted to hand-sew the lining into place.  I pinned it into place along the front edges and neck and sewed those sections first, and refitted and sewed the hem last.


And done.  I need to consider a closure, but I have a number of brooches and chains that should work.  Or I could stretch a strip of finished fox fur between the sides and pin that in place with brooches.  Either way, a damaged, dated jacket is now wearable and I have scraps of striped silk and fox fur to use for another project.  Win-win.

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Whirlwind Autumn

Posted by on Monday, October 10th, 2016

My favorite annual event is not happening this year, so we put our heads together and decided to re-allocate that vacation time to maximize fun and insanity and limit my opportunities to mope.  Coincidentally, some friends asked me to write something unusual for them, so I spent a great deal of time researching Sarmatian and Bastarnae run-ins with the Illyrian Roman regimes in the later ancient world.

In the midst of all that research, I taught my Early Period Embroidery and Weave Structures classes at Atlantia University in Mid-September.  I had an amazing time.  I’ve been teaching at SCA events for years, but that was the first time I’d taught at a University, and it was great to have an auditorium and a projector rather than having to lug crates of books with me, risking damage to the books and to my own poor back.  I had amazing groups of students for both classes.  I get such a rush from nerdy discussion of archaeological finds and experimental archaeology.

And then I polished up the new creation and we headed down to Alabama.  All of that research of mine came together in a Coronation ceremony for our friends who just stepped up in Meridies. We kept the material on lock down so the ceremony could have the greatest impact, and I think our work paid off.  Now that it’s all said and done, I can confidently say this is one of the most enjoyable, successful collaborative Bardic projects I’ve ever taken part in.  In short, Barthelemy and Oda wanted to do something unusual for their coronation.  Because I have always essentially hidden in a cave, anything I produce for an elevation or other ceremony in the SCA winds up being unusual, because I am rarely exposed to things like elevations.  I am also focused on a far earlier period in history than most of the SCA, so I have more facility with the ancient world than most.  They asked for an origin story that would tie in their two personae and explain how they ended up wearing crowns and having a Sarmatian reign.

Initially, I worried I wouldn’t be able to unite everything in a reasonable narrative, but their flexibility allowed me to pinpoint and work from a long-term alliance between Sarmatians and Bastarnae in the Balkans.  A number of Preachain’s southern members are in a household called the Bastarnae based on that ancient Germano-Scythian people, so that discovery delighted me–I loved the idea of some of my nearest and dearest with us on that stage.  Once the research was done and my Muse started knocking, it was pretty clear that Roma–the Goddess who embodies “Roman-ness” and Istro, the God of the Danube, would be the philosophical governors of the two sides of our story.  We settled on a ritual drama for the Ceremony, with nods to Ancient Greek theater and Shakespeare.  I generally build packets that include my notes and bibliographies when I work on projects like this, so I shared my notes out to the Royals as well as a few of the other principal players to allow them to request that I include or exclude certain things.  I did all of the speaking, so we didn’t have to ask anyone else to memorize lines, and we’re lucky enough to have friends who are amazing costumers and actors who could help make everything work on the day.

I’m proud of what we came up with: I composed a free verse poem that begins with a recitation of the historical record rewritten with my style and biases.  We then had a break for a song to mark out where our invention began, and then I continued with the story of Barthelemy and Oda and how they managed to seize the crowns.  For the actual ceremony, we had one dear friend of mine representing Roma and another dear friend as Istro/Danube, so the Romans and Barbarians (Bastarnae and Sarmatians) each had a god on a plinth to protect and rely on.  Each of the tribes and the Romans had a small group of actors to portray their actions.  The song they chose for the break is called Road to Rome, and it’s a huge favorite of mine.  We did a few quick run-throughs for blocking and lighting, and the excellent stage manager primed the audience to be ready for something different.  The Ceremony itself went off without a hitch.  All of the actors did a great job, and the singer who punctuated that break sounded amazing.  The whole weekend was fantastic.  Many friends from all over Meridies came out, and everyone was so welcoming to Alherin and me.  I couldn’t pick a nicer home away from home that Meridies.

If you want to read or hear the ceremony, here is the packet, complete with audio file.

Now we’re home for a few days before we head south again for War of the Wings.  I’m lucky to have such great house sitters, and I’m glad the puppy hasn’t disowned us yet.  And I need sleep.  And for clothes to dry faster so I can pack them again.


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