I have been informed several times in the last couple of days that I am knitting sweaters for ants. They will be the most well-dressed ants in the kingdom, and we will have ant fashion week and fashion shows and everything.
As you may or may not be able to tell, I’m gearing up to make a new version of the Egyptian Stockings, with some more-authentic materials than I used last time. Another thing I’m trying to do is make sure that my research is even more solid than it was last time, and that means spending a couple afternoons a week translating French museum catalogues into English.
Remember my indigo dyeing adventure last time? And how it didn’t turn out so well for my cotton yarn? Well, after I got it all untangled, I decided to bite the bullet and dye it again. Of course my hands turned blue again…
When last we left our intrepid scribes, they were taking a wee cordial break. After we finished imbibing, it was time to make some iron-gall ink. First we started out by grinding Aleppo oak galls (you can use domestic US oak galls, but you have to use so many more because they are not as tannic as the Aleppo galls) into a coarse powder.
Then we added the copperas (copper sulfate), which turned the brown tisane dark lavender-black.
Then we dissolved some gum arabic and added it to the mix, to help with flow and consistency.
After that, we made quills. The lower shafts were soaking in water to… I can’t remember. Keep them supple? Something. We didn’t end up hardening these quills because we didn’t have sand (oops!) but they’re just more flexible that way.
After the quills were cut, the gesso was dry enough to gild. I forgot to get a picture of the smoothing process, but we basically just used our scalpels to scrape the surface smooth; every imperfection is a place where the gold will potentially not stick. Then we breathed on the gesso with deep tummy breaths (Penelope told us to pretend we were Aslan breathing on the stone statues). Then we took our patent gold (the kind with the paper on the back) and plplaced it gold-down on the gesso letters.
We rubbed the back of the gold through silk fabric, and then burnished the gold letters with agate and hematite.
It was soooo shiny.
Then we used our new ink to write the rest of the quote in. Mine was my motto, which SHOULD read Deus Pascit Corvus, or ‘God Feeds the Crows’. Then we were done! I have since added more finishing touches, but that is another post.
A couple of very lovely, wonderful ladies got together last Saturday and threw a Scribal Play Date for those of us who were interested in learning some intermediate scribal techniques. It was almost ten hours of scribal classes and experimentation, and we still didn’t get around to mixing pigments and painting. I’m going to break it into three posts, one for each class, so that they don’t get unwieldy.
First up, Penelope, who helped organize and teach, cuts vellum for us.
Penelope’s mum, Martha, who is a calligrapher mundanely, and kindly hosted the day at her beautiful house.
Rachel, and her tea. Tea featured very prominently during the day. I think I had two or three different kinds.
Lady Cat, getting things together for the gesso class.
Gesso ingredients: raw sugar, slaked plaster, titanium dioxide, fish glue, and gilder’s bole for color.
Grind all the dry ingredients together. Forever.
What it should look like when it’s ground properly.
Add the fish glue. Which doesn’t smell nearly as bad as you might think it does.
And then you get something that looks like silly putty, with the consistency of caramel sauce.
Using pumice and gum sandarac to properly prepare the surface of the vellum.
Drawing in our letters (or whatever) in gesso. Some of us used quills, some used brushes.
My gesso was quite, uh, pillowy. Go big or go home.
Martha had some gesso made with lead white, instead of titanium oxide, that we reconstituted and tried out, too.
Then a break between gesso and iron gall classes for some cordial tasting. You can tell we’re classy because our pinkies are up.
Next time: Iron Gall ink.