First Attempt at Pyramid Etui

This last week, I decided to draft and embroider and sew together a pyramid etui, or sewing kit/box. I could not afford to purchase a kit or pattern with instructions so I pulled my maths out of mothballs and drafted a pattern for the sides and base. This creation is intended to be an ornament in the Williamsburg Rose and Thistle Chapter Ornament Exchange in December at our annual Holiday Luncheon. I want it to be pretty and it absolutely has to be hand made and Hand embroidered.

There were times that I was tempted to spend some money on the pattern, but the cost from many of the sellers of this pattern or kit was too expensive and I need to use my high school geometry before my brain looses it anyways.

Once I got the patterns drafted, designs drawn and ironed onto the sprigged muslin there was only the embroidery to get started on. As I finished each side I took a photo.

Each of the four sides has a critter or seasonal avatar. Spring is the Hedgehog under a budding tree. Summer is the Hive of bees with their golden skep. Fall is the Sleeping doe and Winter is the White Owl on its leafless branch. As you can see from the amount of pictures the Owl is my favorite. Not to say that the owl is more important, just that I did a pretty good job of embroidering it.

On mounting the work to the cardboard I will only say this. Next time I will remember to purchase several rolls of double sided tape. the Hot Glue was perfect when putting all the pieces together to form the box itself, but was really bulky when trying to attach the seam allowance to the back of the cardboard.

I used hot glue to attach the inner bits to the shell. I made a spot for scissors, a pincushion at the center and bar for needles out of industrial felt.

And finally done. I am quite sure that as I make more of these lovely little etui, that my skills will expand. I have ordered a book to help me with the finer points. Hopefully I will have a set of good photo’s taken of it before the ornament exchange in December.

Update Pyramid Etui

Good news! My beloved, being a photographer agreed to take nice pictures with his good camera. Good camera because all of my pictures were taken with the camera in my phone. These new pictures are reallly reallllly nice..yeah yeah…bad spelling…rolls eyes..whateves…

Things I have made in the past

I went searching for my past projects and found just the images, not the documentation for the projects themselves. I have been gathering all of my projects and putting them here so that people can enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them, oh well the pictures will have to speak for themselves.

A Kidney Pouch in Pink Leather

14th century girdle belt

Belts or girdles have been used by mankind for centuries, millennia even. Whether it was twisted rope, braided leather or studded with precious metals and gems it has the purpose of being the single most utilized accessory by men or women since the need to hold up a skirt or pair of pants. They come in a variety of thicknesses and materials that nearly boggles the mind. Archeological digs have discovered them as far away as China, and as close to home as the peat bogs of Ireland and ship burials in the Norse Countries. They have been represented in carved marble, early portraiture, miniatures in manuscripts and tomb effigies. They have evolved from pure utility of the peasant and middle classes to the almost useless bling of the upper-class in the middle ages.

When doing research for this item I wanted to make sure that it was within the period for my persona and the SCA. I have found many pictures supporting the 15th-century use of this belt, but few actually in the 14th century. I kept entering search criteria ” 14th-century girdle belt” and it would bring  up pictures of one type being the long, decorated buckled style. This simple round the hips with hooks and chain was pictured in 15th-century illuminations but not 14th. I knew it had been in use in the 14th century but was having difficulty finding it under the search criteria. That is until I went to La Cotte Simple and read her lovely article “Building a 1480 English Lady’s Outfit” and she had the correct name for the girdle. Demysent. With that one word, I was able to find at least 1 picture supporting the notion that it was worn in the 14th century, and it was in the same museum as the Well of Moses in Dijon France. The Retable de la Crucifixion carved in 1390 by Jacques de Baerze. That Wonderful Sculptor of wood carved a side panel full of Saints and one of them is a lovely lady wearing the Demysent (Picture1a).

Billede i 1391-1399 Altarpiece, Museum of Fine Arts, Dijon -.JPG

So, this one style was worn in three centuries, 14th, 15th and 16th. This one style of the belt can be used to accessorize three centuries of garb and not be out of place.

Where I found my inspiration:

The style of the belt that I wanted was to be found in a manuscript of plays written in 1400-1500 Item 12148 The comedies of Terence: folio 66r. It is not said at the website of the BnF Gallica as to which play this picture belongs but it is her belt which she holds in her hands that I really had the hot’s for. and the illuminator did a really good job showing the clasp at the end of the belt, for lo, it is a hook.

Housed in the National Museum of Antiquities Leiden is a lovely fragment of a studded leather belt with fittings. It’s got pretty bits nailed to it in a flower pattern, which is a center stud surrounded by six more flanked by a stud on either side and another stud between each flower set. The metal belt mount at the end shows that it may have been an add-on from a larger belt as it isn’t the same width of the belt and has two loops but no tongue and the mount is made to be used with a buckle that has a tongue.

the National Museum of Antiquities  Studded belt with fittings.jpg

The buckle is not what drew me to it, the studs and their pattern are.

On making my belt:

I chose not to go with a flower pattern, though it’s pretty, because of costs. I used turquoise sparkle rivets because by the time the Church in Rome finally allowed anyone not of the clergy, mainly Bishops, to wear “Turkey Stone” it had reached English shores in the 14th century. Nickel rivets to emulate the studs and chose instead of making metal mounts to use leather to hold the pouch hanger and “D” rings at each end. Why, because metal work requires skills I have yet to learn safely. when cutting the metal sheeting for the mounts I could not control my hands and cut myself when I got distracted. This is Not to say that I won’t try to make my own mounts at another time, but for now, the leather wrapped around the “D” Rings at each end will be just fine and look just as “peri-Oid” as any other modern made belt.

Materials, tools, resources/links

I tend to work with scraps and left-over’s for my persona’s belongings to keep the cost low. Living with a leather crafter has an advantage that I sometimes shamefully take advantage of: This is not one of them. To make this belt I am dipping into his business supplies and therefore will be paying for them, once done, so that his inventory will not suddenly become short.

Here is the basic supply list and the cost of the materials:

Turquoise sparkle Rivet: 14=$3.15 (because I like even numbers and have left the center back rivet as nickel)

Nickel D Rings 3/4 inch: 3=$0.43

307 D Solid Brass Nickel Rivet: 88=$5.60

3/4 inch wide 54 inches Black Bull hide Strap: $2.00

Mounts, S Hooks and Chain: To be researched and made at a later date.

Materials: $ 11.18 Time: 1.5 hours at $15 dollars per hour. This information is important should I decide to start making them for sale.

Leather Strap: Made using a large leather strap cutter while cutting bulk lengths of straps for belt making and other leatherworking projects. The leather itself is cut from a large bull hide purchased from Weaver Leather.

Hole Punch: I used a standard hole punch and mallet to put the holes for the decorative rivets measuring between each center hold of the design the width of my left palm. The design was then punched around the center holes the length of the belt blank. The rivets were then set in the holes and the backs put on with a set and the mallet. When setting the rivets I started with the turquoise rivets first as they are domed and would need extra care in setting, so a hunk of leather was placed on the anvil to protect the stones. I left the leather on the anvil when setting the non-stone bearing rivets to allow a dimple to form, while not a practice in the period that I know of, it looks pretty in my opinion.

To form the purse hanger I used a length of half inch wide polished leather strap and a “d” ring, held in place by two nickel rivet.

The Belt at each end is set with a “D” Ring so it can be worn with a ribbon until I can find the proper belt mounts and hooks for it, which can be found online, or I make them myself.

Sparkle Rivets and nickel silver dented rivets on Buffalo textured black leather strap



Belt Fragment with mounts:

Museum of Antiquities Leiden


BnF Gallica: Illuminated Manuscript MS664 The Comedies of Terence:


Belt Buckles

1. CJ’s Metal Detecting Pages:

2. Rosalie’s Medieval Woman:

Images of the Belt in 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries:

1. BnF Gallica:,%20duc%20de%20Bourgogne.zoom

2. Jacques de Baerze: 14th century Wood sculptor


b. Retable de la crucifixion Right Side Photo commissioned 1390:

c. Musee des Beaux-Arts:

3.British Library: Edgerton 1070 f. 29v The Visitation

Picture Annex

1. 1390-1399 Retable de la Crucifixion Jacques de Baerze

          a. Close Up

          b. Whole Right Side

2. Egerton 1070 f. 29v 1410 The Visitation 

3. Tapestry / Wall hanging 1520 Cluny Item #: 2823

Bruises and How to heal them: As may have been done in the 14th century

*Trigger Warning: This article has some harsh views on the Church in Rome. It is not written to offend anyone of an extreme devotion to the Church of Christ in any of its current incarnations.

The purpose of this article is to show how a woman in the middle ages would have healed the bruises of the people in her household. What tools, herbs, and supplies she would have used and what kind of education she might have had if she were of a status higher than that of a peasant, say a merchant or tradesman’s, a daughter.

I wrote this article for any person who would use the same methods to create a bruise salve for those in their households, those in Martialate, fighters, light, heavy and other’s of those types of activities..or just about anyone that needs a salve for pain and bruising.

Even though the lack of education for lesser classes,(A myth that has been debunked in England by the Peasants Revolt of 1381) would have made it hard for a peasant to have the education needed for advanced herbal medicine., a medieval woman could indeed have used the tools and herbs listed to make a bruise salve, because medieval woman of  any class would have known what herbs of the field to us in a bruise salve, even if they learned it from a local Herb Wife or Midwife. The education level of certain higher classes encouraged the lady of the house to run a healing still room or scullery for her household.


My Persona

Mevanou verch Rhys Yriskynit, or Mevanou daughter of Rhys the Tailor; born to Proswetel verch Brethoc and Reys ap Madoc Seis in the year of Our Lord 1441 in the few years before the start of what we now call The War of the Roses on the 24th day of March. Her Saint on that day would be Saint Gwuinear of the Springs. Her Mother had been trained in the verbal traditions of healing and midwifery. Her father born of the English speaker for the village of his birth sent Reys via monk to London to be the apprentice to a Sutor(shoemaker) but was turned away when there was no room for another apprentice. The monk quickly found him a place as an apprentice to a Tailor shop instead. Maddoc Seis was only too happy to find his youngest son out of dangers and predations of his elder siblings, who in typical Welsh fashion killed each other off. Mevanou was taught to read, write, do simple sums and all of the skills in using, preserving and healing available to her mother. She was taught by both parents the joys of sewing, embroidery and how to tend to a household.

I have found this recipe on a site called Stephen’s Florigilium[1], It’s called Bruise Cream. The recipe is a favorite among the fighters heavy or otherwise in the Society for Creative Anachronism. In this collection of messages each person listed their favorite recipe for the cream and I noticed that they all had some of the same ingredients, so I combined those in the lists that I knew would be helpful for bruising, and I simplified it down to the more basic recipe with amounts of herbs that would make just 2 cups of the herbal oil, which could then allow me to make a simple salve. I have been using this recipe for several years and finally decided to write a paper. which I then cleaned up for an article here.

In order to know if the herbs in my recipe were also used in the time period of my persona by her counterparts I then did research as to whether or not a woman of middle class would have had the knowledge either handed down to her by another woman, her mother or the local herb-wife or even the local Abbess in a Nunnery.

What follows is my discovery.

Every person who has been unlucky enough to fall off the swing set at a school playground has had an encounter with a bruise, or scuffed knee. While it healed we marveled at the colors of that bruise as it healed and wondered what was really happening and disappointed when it was fully healed as our badge of courage faded. Well, for those who know how a bruise happens but not what a bruise actually is, here is a lovely explanation.

Forgive me, but I am going to use the modern terminology to keep it simple.

A bruise also called a contusion, is a type of relatively minor hematoma of tissue in which capillaries and sometimes venules are damaged by trauma, allowing blood to seep into the surrounding interstitial tissues. Bruises can involve capillaries at the level of skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle, or bone. A bruise may be named by the length of its diameter as a petechia (less than 3 mm), purpura (3 mm to 1 cm) or ecchymosis (1 to 3 cm), although these terms can also refer to internal bleeding not caused by trauma.

As a type of hematoma, a bruise is always caused by internal bleeding into the interstitial tissues, usually initiated by blunt trauma(falling off the swing set), which causes damage through physical compression and deceleration forces. Trauma sufficient to cause bruising can occur from a wide variety of situations including accidents, falls, and surgeries, the pounding one receives with the duct tape covered rattan sword from one’s opponent in the lists. Disease states such as insufficient or malfunctioning platelets, other coagulation deficiencies, or vascular disorders, such as venous blockage associated with severe allergies can lead to the formation of bruises in situations in which they would not normally occur and with only minimal trauma. If the trauma is sufficient to break the skin and allow blood to escape the interstitial tissues, the injury is not a bruise but instead, a different variety of hemorrhage called bleeding, although such injuries may be accompanied by bruising elsewhere.

Bruises often induce pain, but small bruises are not normally dangerous alone. Sometimes bruises can be serious, leading to other more life-threatening forms of hematoma, such as when associated with serious injuries, including fractures and more severe internal bleeding. The likelihood and severity of bruising depend on many factors, including type and healthiness of affected tissues. Minor bruises may be easily recognized in people with light skin color by characteristic blue or purple appearance (idiomatically described as “black and blue”) in the days following the injury. There, now you know what a bruise is.

Bruises go through a rainbow of color changes as the body begins to heal itself. The rainbow of color changes means that your body is breaking down the red blood cells that collect under the skin. As the red blood cells break down, they eventually get flushed away by the body’s natural process. These red blood cells cause the bluish, purplish, reddish, or blackish marks that are typical of a bruise. That’s where black-and-blue marks got their name – from their color under the skin. You can pretty much guess the age of a bruise just by looking at its color:

  1. When you first get a bruise, its reddish as the blood appears under the skin. 
  2. Within 1 or 2 days, the hemoglobin (an iron-containing substance that carries oxygen) in the blood changes and your bruise turns bluish-purple or even blackish. 
  3. After 5 to 10 days, the bruise turns greenish or yellowish. 
  4. Then, after 10 or 14 days, it turns yellowish-brown or light brown.   

It usually takes 2-4 weeks for bruises to disappear, depending on the person and how severe the injury is. Bruises can last from just days to months. [i]

Women in Medieval Medicine: Conflicting Attitudes

Like the lepers and lunatics with whom they were sometimes categorized, women occupied an ambivalent position in the eyes of the medieval Church and the medical profession alike. On the positive side, female saints; headed by the Virgin herself, were venerated for their miraculous healing powers; housewives were expected, as a matter of course, to supervise everything touching the health and welfare of their families; and all the larger hospitals and almshouses employed women to care for the sick, albeit often in mental hospitals. On the Negative side: although contemporary literature abounds with examples of fictional heroines noted for their medical skills, the authorities were in practice increasingly hostile towards those women who overstepped the bounds of their amateur or domestic role by setting themselves up as empirics of various kinds. Mistrusted by the ecclesiastical establishment, whose fears found expression in a series of legal measures designed to curb, if not completely suppress their activities, women nevertheless continued their freelance practices that were more often than not the inherited businesses from husbands or fathers. The Church, unable to completely curb these women set out to vilify them with rumors that these wise women were practicing the black arts. A bit more, in the medieval Church’s mind, women were so far inferior as to inherit their souls as many as 20 days later than boys while in the womb. Women had to work three times as hard to be taken seriously and often would be punished for trying to clean the slate and show that we were not inferior. This has changed little in the years since AD 380 when the Christian religion was made the official state religion of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine I.

As said before women were expected to care for the sick and infirm with the preparations of herbal remedies. In the Roman period, the women of the family treated the illnesses of ordinary folk, using methods and remedies handed down from mother to daughter for many generations. This practice continued throughout the middle ages with the same remedies being passed from villager to villager all through Europe. The recipes used were the same regardless of whether you were pauper or Pope. These were often written in commonplace books available to any who could read and afford them. Most would often learn the recipes from the wise woman before them, be that their lady mother or a nunnery if they had the money to be accepted.

 A woman of the middle classes would have learned to read and write under the hand of her mother or nurse, especially if she were the child of a tradesman[ii]. While young she would have been made sure to be able to do basic if not minimal mathematics in order to assist her husband in the running of his business, which due to the lifespan of women she would most likely have taken over the running of it after his death leaves her a widow.  Remember, that in the middle ages men still thought of women as their functions..wife, mother, housekeeper, servant etc. Her education would have been such to enable her to do her one womanly job in creating and raising the next generation. Remember that includes caring for the entire household and their health and well being, so knowledge of herbs for healing would have been part of it.

The Herbals and the People that wrote them

Many of the medieval herbals and health manuscripts were written by people who were putting their own thoughts onto paper or copying what had been written by others many centuries before them. Some of those writer’s thoughts had nothing to do with what those herbs were actually used for or were proven to be useful for in later centuries. Others were putting their religious dogma into the mix with the original wording of text being replaced with the chants and prayers of their faith.

Take heed when looking for a cure for some of the earlier diseases before the coming of Christianity, it’s likely you will not find the original text as it will have been changed to a church-approved prayer. To get to an earlier text you will need to be lucky enough to find much earlier manuscripts, and I wish you much luck. The world of medicine and healing went from a golden age of depression being seen as an illness that could be treated with herbs and therapy(Egyptian papyri) to depression being a madness that was the work of Satan and God who let the demons into your mind(Hildegard von Bingen). Also, a lot of works were lost when the first council of Nicaea convened and decided the fate of the doctrine of faith; a great many manuscripts became anathema and were destroyed. Those that were not destroyed were hidden and lost. More and more as the Church of Rome took control everything written and believed in; from medicine, women’s rights and who believed or did not were examined and became blasphemy if it did not tow the company line. While many a Christian doctor believed that the shite of a white animal was pure enough to be included in medicines and cures, those not of the Christian faith frowned and continued with medicines that actually worked, but were considered barbarous by pious Christians.  Some manuscripts that were believed to be written by women were often deliberately rumored to have been written by men to either discredit them or make them acceptable in the eyes of the medical schools and its bevy of boys club practitioners. Anything to do with the healing of women was left to women and was taboo to study or write about.Mostly because the Church in Rome was against anything that would lift up women in the eyes of mankind, and because women were considered dirty and the origin of Original Sin…so long as the church controlled how women were viewed, educated, married off and subjugated; We would not find equality…funny, today we are still having that issue.

The Red Book of Hergest

The First manuscript I looked at was the Red Book of Hergest and its section of medicine compiled in the late 13th century by order of The Prince of South Wales Rhys Gryg, who ordered his physician Rhiwallon to compile his medical knowledge in Welsh for others to make use of the information both then and during the centuries that followed. Rhiwallon lived at Myddfai, a tiny village in Mid-Wales. This little village was the center of herbal healing in Wales, and little has changed the centuries that have passed. Indeed even today the Elders of Wales prefer the herbal healers to the modern medical practitioners because they never gave up the Herbal traditions or even came to see it as an alternate form of medicine. Myddfai to the non-native Welsh became a legendary place, where the Fair folk gave the magic of medicinal knowledge to one man and his bloodline. This tradition was orally passed down from generation to generation in the form of rhymes and songs until Rhys Gryg had that knowledge compiled, but Rhiwallon being a man forgot to compile the knowledge of the wise women in the villages, thus leaving a very large gap for generations later to work on filling. The book had little in it to help me, other than to point me to earlier works and to show that the Welsh had a healing tradition of some merit. Rhiwallon did not cover the common herbs, nor bruising in the Red Book of Hergest, however his long descendant Jon Jones, physician of Myddfai and last lineal descendant of the family left behind his book of medicine in his own handwriting and in Welsh at a time when the English were generally how one communicated when educated in medicine. It is His book that I found a  remedy for bruising that had a recipe for a salve for “any kind of wounded integument. On Page 331, #176 of the English Translation from Welsh; One should know that the Integumentary System is the Skin. While not exactly the same recipe that I have been using it at least shows that healers used not just one herb good for bruising(a simple) they used several herbs together to make a powerful salve to heal a bruise or wound right well.

After some thought, I followed my nose to the works of the Anglo Saxons…They too were of the groups of people that had migrated eventually to the lovely British Isles, just as the ancestors of the Welsh did in the first of many Celtic Migrations. It’s a walk backward in time and publication, but it was worth the trip back in time. The History Channel likes to show the Angles and the Saxons as Hairy, Unwashed Barbarians as they like to portray them as Dirty Warriors. Which is NOT true. They enjoyed the Arts, Music and Herbal healing as well as educating themselves. Many of the Migrations that came to the British Isles were well educated, with different parts of their society being equal in standing, even the slaves had status, and Women, when the Christian monks and missionaries came to the Isles they readily found that women had equal standing..well, doncha know that had to go…

Bald and his Leech book

Written in the early 10th century in England under the direction of one Bald, who, if he were not a personal friend of King Alfred’s, had at any rate access to the king’s correspondence; for one chapter consists of prescriptions sent by Helias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the king. We learn the names of the first owner and scribe from lines in Latin verse at the end of the second part of the MS.

“Bald is the owner of this book, which he ordered Cild to write, Earnestly I pray here all men, in the name of Christ, That no treacherous person take this book from me, Neither by force nor by theft nor by any false statement. Why? Because the richest treasure is not so dear to me as my dear books which the Grace of Christ attends.”

The109 leaves of this book are written in a large, bold hand and one or two of the initial letters are very faintly illuminated. The Leech Book of Bald was as evidence shows, the manual of a Saxon doctor or leech, and he refers to two other doctors—Dun and Oxa by name—who had given him prescriptions.

The position of the leech in those days would have been very difficult, for he was subjected to the obviously inequitable competition of the higher clergy, many of whom enjoyed a reputation for working “miraculous” cures. The leech being so inferior in position, it is not surprising that his medical knowledge did not advance on scientific lines.

The treatments of many ailments are described within its pages; from being elf shot to flying venoms. The Anglo-Saxons had a love of herbs and there are many in that book used then, that is still in use today, among them: Arnica (Wolfsbane), Wood Betony, Vervain, Mugwort, Plantain, Yarrow, Comfrey, Calendula, and Juniper.

The recipes and treatments are written in Old English (Anglo Saxon), and translations are few and far between, especially descriptions and meanings of the words. There is a movement to translate all Old English Texts so that the newer generations will be able to see how their ancestors thought, treated and healed ailments.  As it happens, while searching the interwebs searching for a translation I found one in Rev. Oswald Cockayne, who did the work and his translations of the Old English Anglo Saxon manuscripts were published as Leechdoms, Worcunning and Starcraft of Early England in three Volumes. Volume II contains the Leechbook of Bald part I, II, and III. Also contained within is the Herbarium Apuleii, translated from the Lingua Romaic to Anglo Saxon and finally to English… Thank the Anglo-Saxons for being so thirsty for knowledge, without them, the English as a nation would not have been so Educated.

Bald was working with recipes and folk medicine drawn from the countryside around him, passed on from mother to daughter, father, and son, borrowed from the king’s physicians. He had gathered the recipes and treatments, and all evidence points out that this manuscript was the culmination of his knowledge so that he would have it on hand and not need to worry about forgetting any of it in my opinion; since I too have my notebooks written nearly the same way while collecting recipes. This one for coughs, that one for skin ailments, another for my persona’s herbal knowledge.

With regards to the way in which Anglo-Saxons used their drugs, it should be said that they mostly employed simples(single herbs as ingredients) in infusions or powders;  though there were quite a few containing often a great number of herbs, are uncomplicated and very different from the formulae of Galen. Each of the herbs in this recipe is covered in the Leechbooks and can be grown in an English Garden save for Arnica. Arnica also is known as Wolf’s Bane, is a Continental Herb and though is cultivated throughout northern Europe has not been introduced to England of the Anglo Saxons save by trade, as it is almost impossible to grow it anyplace that does not have alpine meadows or is too acidic in soil content. It may be that at one time English soil was not so acidic and Arnica could have been grown there, but scientific data of the range of habitat suggest that it may not have been grown there at all.  

The Anglo-Saxon pharmacy in comparison to those taught in the schools of such higher learning, such as Salerno can be considered of a lower state of medicinal practice. Herbs were used as watery infusions and decoctions, or made up with ale and milk in draughts, or as confections made with honey, or mixed with butter or lard as an ointment. At the heart of it all, I find that I prefer this lower state to the often dangerous formulae into which a great many heavy metals and other poisons which have been shown to be far more dangerous in the hands of uneducated snake oil salesmen of later centuries. Throughout the Leechbooks the herbs in this recipe were used either together or as simples to help with pain, bruising, and leprous diseases of the skin, so it’s not impossible that they would never have been used together, just harder to find evidence of.

The Leech book is rare in that it contains instructions for plastic surgery; the recipe, in particular, prescribes surgery for a harelip[iii]. Amazing isn’t it that in the 10th century there was a way to surgically alter a debilitating birth defect?

The Process

Herbal infusions have been made and drunk throughout history – both for their medicinal properties and culinary attributes. Our breakfast tea is, after all, simply an infusion of an herb in water. Herbal infusions can consist of just one individual herb or can be made of two or more herbs blended together.

Infusing an herb in oil allows the active fat-soluble constituents to be passed into the oil. Hot infused[iv] oils are slowly, simmered for a couple of hours, whilst cold infused oils are heated by the sun over several weeks. Both types of oil infusion can be used externally as a massage oil or added to creams and medicaments as in a salve.

Bald seemed to prefer the use of either lard or butter[v] as the base for all of his salves, but in looking at how fast butter goes rancid it would seem a large waste of materials to continually make the salves needed to cover the many ailments, but then again, those remedies were used pretty quickly and did not need to be kept longer than needed.

My Process is much the same as that instructed in the Leechbook of Bald, I took the herbs and pounded them together in a Mortar with a pestle,  This took quite a few hours due to my mortar being a smaller one of marble, (I then quit using the mortar and pestle and cheated by using an electric coffee grinder, ground is ground after all.); then added them to the pot of oils/fats and macerated them for a few hours, keeping careful watch to make sure that I did not burn the house down with a grease fire. When I got to be too nervous, I switched to a crock pot for the better control factor. The need for complete control of heat and time allows me to put all of the ingredients into the crockpot and leave it covered for the amount of time needed and not leave me with the worry of burning down the house or burning the herbs in the oil and therefore making the infusion useless. When the allotted time was done I removed the pot from the heat and allowed it to cool before straining out the herbs in a fine muslin cloth. That was rather fun, the oil was still rather warm as I squeezed the bag of herbs to get all the oil out. My hands had never been so soft and my osteoarthritis quit complaining about a bit, so It was all the proof I needed as to whether or not it would work.

The Herbs

Achillea Millefolium – Yarrow

Its name is derived from the Greek hero Achilles, and during the Trojan, wars were reputedly used to treat wounds. According to the many herbalists of that time, Yarrow is somewhat warm and dry and has a discreet and subtle power of healing wounds. If a person is wounded by a blow (bruised), let the wound be washed with wine. Then gently tie warm yarrow, cooked moderately in water and with the water squeezed out, over the bandaged placed over the wound. It will draw out the infection from the wound and the wound will heal. Today yarrow is valued mainly for treating colds and influenza, and also for its effectiveness in treating problems of the circulatory, digestive and urinary systems, and inflamed joints.

Arnica Montana – Arnica

Arnica can be found in many medieval herbals to cure the fires of overexertion and even for stoking the fires of sexual love, according to Hildegard of Bingen. “Arnica is very warm and has a poisonous heat in it. When a man or a woman burns with desire, if that man or woman’s flesh touches the greenness of arnica, they will burn with love for whoever is afterward touched with the same herb. The person will be so incensed with love, almost infatuated, that he or she will become a fool” In Modern Usage, however,  Homeopathic Arnica is a perfect fit for all kinds of childhood bumps, bruises and contusions, and many occupational and sports injuries. As a general rule, homeopathic Arnica is a prime candidate for any accident or injury that results in physical trauma consisting of bruising, tissue damage, broken blood vessels, black and blue skin discoloration and swelling. It is most specific to blunt forms of trauma, especially to soft tissues. Arnica can also be of benefit in strains, sprains and muscle injuries.[2] It comes as a little white pill approved by the FDA for internal use..for herbalists who prefer it as a topical ointment it comes in a little tube of cream. Do NOT use this on broken skin. It causes irritation to mucous membranes and the skin on your body is the biggest one. (if one uses the recipe below, and prefers to remove Arnica from the recipe, the resulting oil will still be just as efficacious as if it were included. Just remember to double the Calendula.)

Artemisia vulgaris – Mugwort

Related to wormwood, this herb is highly regarded medicinally in both East and West. It was planted along roadsides by Roman soldiers, who put sprigs of it in their sandals for their aching feet on long journeys. Used medicinally in compresses by many cultures for its properties in treating bruises and bites it is included in my bruise juice also for its antibiotic properties to ward off infection.

Calendula officinalis – Pot Marigold

These golden flowers have been a favorite among the herbalists for centuries. It has been recommended for everything from gastritis to inflammations of all kinds. Hildegard used Calendula for crusty scalp by pounding it in a mortar with bacon fat and smearing it on the scalp so that the crustiness falls off after a few days of use. Calendula is very useful for cuts and scrapes, mild sunburn and dry skin conditions.

Hypericum perforatum – St. John’s Wort

Old herbals often refer to tutsan (H. androsaemum), from the French toutsain or heal-all, which was also used to treat injuries and inflammations. I use this herb for joint pain, inflammation and fighter’s elbow. One word of caution: use of this herb has been known to make the user sensitive to sunlight, so please use precautions when out in the sunlight.

Juniperus communis – Juniper

Long associated with ritual cleansing, juniper was burned in temples as part of regular purification rites and in homes to ward off the plague. Called Savin or Juniperus Savin,  Imported from Rome, it was in the gardens when the Anglo-Saxons invaded and took over[3]. Several Medicinal papyri have survived dating back as far as 1550 BC in which contains Juniper berries. Now many herbalists use the berries for their help for inflamed joints, muscle pain, and gouty joints. oh, and don’t forget its very tasty inclusion in the recipe for a good gin.

Symphytum officinale – Comfrey

A country name for comfrey was knitbone, a reminder of its traditional use in healing fractures. The herb contains Allantoin, which encourages bone, cartilage, and muscle cells to grow. This recipe contains comfrey to do just that; encourage the healing of damaged muscles, and joints.

The Tools of the Medieval Kitchen

One simply cannot think of a kitchen without seeing the modern kitchen; full of modern appliances, knives, spoons, pots, and pans. The medieval kitchen would have been a tad different…not by much..there would have been none of the modern appliances such as stove and storage would have been simpler than even the pantry. In most larger medieval homes there were different spaces used for the different functions of preparing food or even medicines. The Scullery was used for food storage and preparation and the kitchen with its fireplace where the pots and pans would be used to cook the food. Also in the scullery were the herbs hanging in bunches to dry for later use in culinary and medicine. There would have been shelves for jars of food sealed with waxed linen and twine and the same for the different herbs and spices(in those houses that could afford spices, a locked cupboard would have been built to keep servants from the temptation to steal the valuable commodities.)

There were Pots and pans for stews, soups, and frying and sautéing as with any household we can walk into today, most were made of thick clay with three or four feet on the bottom to keep the pot out of the coals of the fire. the biggest would hang from an iron hook for larger stews or roasts. The chief tools of the kitchen that I am concerned with would have been found in an apothecary shop. The chief tools used in every kitchen and most apothecaries were:

  1. knives and shears(scissors)
  2. mortar & pestle
  3. strainer, sieve, and/or colander (to filter liquids or foods ground in the mortar)
  4. cloths for filtering almond milk and cleaning surfaces, scouring sand, and tubs for washing.
  5. weighing scales,
  6. heat source (fireplace with iron hooks for pots.)
  7. clay jars for storage.

My kitchen has those things, in modern terms all the kitchen cutlery and scissors, tiny mortar and pestle, washcloths, straining cloths, strainer, wire sieve, Sink, scales, electric stove, crock pot and ball canning jars for storage of salves. I get most of my herbs from apothecary shops in town and online. They come in separate packages weighed out to my specifications and labeled so that I need only put them in jars for later use. When you go to the apothecary in your area, remember to mention that you need them in separate and labeled bags, not jumbled together hastily in a paper lunch-bag, it happened to me once..and in hindsight, I should have refused the lot and demanded that they do my order again. oh well, there’s always next time.

The Results

What I got was a lovely all-purpose itchy owie oil that I could then turn into a salve or cream. I tried it on myself first, (remember that part above about straining it?) thinking that if it works for my bruises it would work for anyone; then when friends found that I had been making bruise juice(the oil) I was offered up things in trade, now truthfully, those people asking for it were heavy fighters who at the end of the day on the field wanted something to make the ouch go away and I happily obliged. Don’t tell them, but I would have happily given it away for free, but in the one instance, I needed that tailors dummy really badly. All of the herbs work well together, in the oil base and those who use it are only too happy to take it off my hands when I make it. If it didn’t work, no one would want it.


Would my persona have used the tools and herbs to make the oil and the salve? Yes, she would have.

She would have heated the fats in a cooking pot(clay being the usual material) to make them liquid and added the herbs to make the salves and strained them through scraps of cloth or just left the herbs in the fats as it cooled. The cloth would have been linen, made from the retted fibers of the plant commonly called flax, and indeed she might have even used the scraps leftover from making her own clothes. Truly, I myself have used the larger scraps of linen left over from making my garb to make the straining sacks for herbal work.

After all of the reading and researching, I do believe that my persona would indeed have had the education and thus the use of the very basic tools to keep her household healthy and safe from the superstitions of the day, shite of a white animal indeed…



[3] Leechcraft,wortcunning and starcraft Cockayne Volume 2 Preface page xii.



[iii] Leechbook i, chapter 13 (pr Cockayne p 56).


Please take note that most of my trips to Wikipedia are in search of more questions to ask, and to take a peek at the bibliography of the authors and their sources.

I did not use them as First line sources due to the changeability of Wikipedia itself.



Bruise Juice Recipe

4 Tablespoons Juniper berries

4 Tablespoons Calendula flowers (if not using arnica double this)

4 Tablespoons arnica flowers (Remember that this will irritate the broken skin)

4 Tablespoons comfrey leaves

2 Tablespoons st Johns Wort

2 Tablespoons mugwort

2 Tablespoons yarrow

2 cups olive oil

Using a coffee grinder, grind all of the herbs together into a coarse powder and in a large crock pot place all ingredients. Cook for 8 hours on low heat then let cool. Don’t lift the lid, not even to stir it. Squeeze out the oil using muslin or linen bags and bottle. Store in a cool, dark place. it should last up to a full calendar year if properly cared for.

Use oil to massage painful joints and bruises.

Bruise Cream Instructions

8 Tablespoons bruise juice

3 Tablespoons Shea butter

3 Tablespoons cocoa butter

2 Tablespoons beeswax

Heat all in a double boiler until beeswax, Shea butter, cocoa butter is fully melted. Pour into a mixing bowl and put a wire whisk blade on the mixer and wait 4 minutes to let the mixture cool. Then turn the mixer on and slowly bring up to high speed and fluff the balm into a good creamy consistency. Spoon into jars and let cool…use on bruises and painful joints. Good to make ahead of time for the fighting season; your heavies will love you for it! The rapier fighters will adore you too!!! Okay, don’t forget anyone that may have any physical activities during eventing season…even if it’s just getting up to refill the big mead bucket they call a flagon…


Books Consulted

“Hildegard’s Healing Plants from Her Medieval Classic Physica” Translated by Bruce W. Hozeski, Beacon Press 2001

“The Medieval Health Handbook tacuinum sanitatis” translated and adapted by Oscar Ratti and Adele Wesbrook from the original Italian edition Luisa Gogliati Arano, Tacuinum Sanitatis, Electa Editrice. 1976

“The Complete Medicinal Herbal” Penelope Ody, DK Publishing 1993

“Medicine and Society in later medieval England” Carole Rawcliffe, Sandpiper Books LTD, 1995

“Medicine before Science” Roger French, Cambridge University Press 2003.

“The Greek Achievement” Charles Freeman, Penguin Group Publishing 1999

“Greek and Roman Medicine” Ian Dawson, Enchanted Lion Books, 2005

“The History of Medicine Vol. 1 Primitive and Archaic Medicine ” Henry E. Sigerist MD. Oxford University Press 1977

“The Genesis of Science” Stephen Bertman, Prometheus Books, 2010

“Herbals, their origin and evolution”, Agnes Robertson Arber Cambridge at the University Press, 1912

“English medicine in the Anglo-Saxon Times”, Joseph Frank Payne, Oxford at Clarendon Press, 1904

“History and Hygiene of Linen.” Harry C. O’Neill, Overland Monthly Magazine, November 1902

PDF E-Books, Booklets and Reports Consulted:

“Herbals: The Connection between Horticulture and Medicine” Jules Janick, HortTechnology April–June 13(2): 229–238

“Medical journals in the Eastern Mediterranean Region”

Report of a conference Cairo, Egypt, 7–9 October 2003

“Otology in Medical Papyri in Ancient Egypt” Albert Mudry, MD, The Mediterranean Journal of Otology 2005

“An Interlinear Transliteration and English Translation of Portions of


Possibly Having to Do With Diabetes Mellitus”,

Stephen Carpenter, Michel Rigaud, Mary Barile, Tracy J. Priest, Luis Perez, John B. Ferguson, Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson NY 1998

“The Old Egyptian Medical Papyri”, Chauncey D. Leake

Vice-President, University of Texas—Medical Branch Galveston


“The doctor in Ancient Egypt” J.F. Nunn


R. Van Hee Institute of the History of Medicine and Natural Sciences,

University of Antwerp, Belgium. Jurnalul de Chirurgie, Iaşi, 2011, Vol. 7, Nr. 3 [ISSN 1584 – 9341]

“The Papyrus Ebers” Translated from the German version by Cyril P. Bryan. 1930




JANUARY 12TH, 1893.].”


Physician to the Glasgow Western Infirmary, and to the Royal Hospital

for Sick Children, Glasgow; Honorary Librarian to the Faculty of

Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, etc. page 748 The British Medical Journal APRIL s, 1893..

Leechdoms, wortcunning, and starcraft of early England. Being a collection of documents, for the most part never before printed, illustrating the history of science in this country before the Norman conquest (1864) Cockayne, Thomas Oswald, 1807-1873 Vol. I, II, AND III

Internet Resources: – Galen


Hildegard of  Bingen – Used to start the path to knowledge and so as a minor resource, not a major one.

Mortar and Pestle


Slow cooking

Clay Pots

Ebers Papyrus

Trapezoidal Alms Pouch

Purses, Pouches, and Bags oh my! The things we put in them vary but they all have one thing in common. They were made to hold our stuff. As far back as recorded history goes, humanity has had a love for the purse. Today we collect purses and bags and clutches like they will disappear in an instant if we don’t buy it now. Back in the 14th century the ladies and gentlemen were NO Different. Judging by how many extant alms purses have been found up and down the Atlantic Seaboard of Northern Europe all the way down to the Egyptian Tombs,  we have always craved stuff and bags to hold that stuff…

Alms Purses or Aumonieres were so named because of the Medieval tradition of giving Alms or being generous to those in need. The Alms purses one finds these days has been carefully curated and stored by museums and churches around the world. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, I looked and found that the largest number of Alms purses are of the square or rectangular pouch type, usually embroidered and embellished during the 14th century with an embroidery technique that includes gold work couching and silk figure embroideries often called Opus Anglicanum which translates to English Work. This English work was well coveted throughout Medieval Europe as some of the finest needlework of the time. Mostly due to the costly gold wrapped threads than the fine stitches in silk. Look up ” 14th-century Alms Purse” on the internet and you will get a large avalanche of pictures and websites that celebrate the square or rectangular type. and then search for “14th-century trapezoidal alms purse” and you might get a dozen. Most are found and labeled as reliquary purses in church museums Or as donations to major museums.

Okay, now to the meat of the dish.

I have made many a pouch and purse. Some in linen, a few in leather; square, kidney-shaped and circular they have all come and gone. The Trapezoidal Alms Purse, however, I could not find a pattern for and it was frustrating.

The Collections housing the purses I found for this project as inspiration were of the usual listing style. Who once owned it, What it was made of, Its dimensions and some photos of it front to back and each of its bits if not complete. The problem is that so often these listings don’t give a full picture of its measurements. Width and length..that’s it. They don’t give width at the top and center, which would give a better Idea of actual measurements…This leaves one open to much error in pattern making.

The three extant pouches I used for designing the pattern and eventually making the pouch come from two museums.

G002610 Purse of Jan of Bravant Front.jpg
10-527907Lady on a Griffin.jpg

The First is found online at the Belgian Art Links and Tools, it is the purse of John of  Brabant.  The Second is housed in Paris, at the Cluny Museum – National Museum of the Middle Ages: Chaplain of a Bar Countess (the lady on the griffin).

And One Statue of the Prophet Isaiah (Claus Sluter 1395-1406)wearing the usual garb of a 14th-century man: his belt has that pouch hanging right there for all to see.

 Take a closer look at the statue of Isaiah as he was placed on the Moses Well. His pouch is dome topped and trapezoidal and also a ring pouch. which is to say a pouch with a ring for rigid support and a drawstring added for security. It does not have buttons for closure just tassels for decoration. It may have been simpler for the mason carving the statue to not have buttons. You can see that the inner ring of support was carved,  as a ridge just under the flap and his belongings showing inside. I love this pouch that Isaiah wears. It shows how it was hung from the belt with a strap and buckle, which many museums cannot show as the strap has long been worn away or lost. I love buckles they’re so fun.

Prophet Isaiah Well of Moses Champmol.jpg

Fabrics and Embellishment:

Mine: Plum Linen shell, White Linen lining. Thread: Heavy Duty Coats and Clark

Mine: Not embroidered. Hand Sewn with period stitches, bound with plum linen

binding. Mine Differs in Fabrics and Embellishment because Silk and real gold are out of my price range.

Original: Silk shell and lining appliqued slips embroidered in the images of an angel and a lady on a griffin.


embellished trim. Hand-knotted buttons.

How it was made:

The Pattern: From a picture and the information at the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages I drafted the pattern to be approximately the same size as the pouch housed in the museum. I added 1/4 inch seam allowances to make adding the binding easier for narrow trim or ribbon. I cut the pattern out of thin cardboard recycled from inserts packaged with moving blankets, and a family sized box of Frosted Flakes.  They were of the right size. I used chalk to trace around the pattern on the plum and white linen and then cut them out. For the Front shell and lining, I pinned and sewed around the opening, clipped the curves and turned the seam. On the Plumb Purse, using 15 gauge steel wire I coiled a 2-foot length and fit it in place between the front shell and lining and carefully backstitched to keep it in place. I lay out the back with the lining on top and placed the front with the shell facing outward and pinned the layers together. Using bias cut binding in the plum from another scrap I bound the edges all the way around, making sure to carefully cover the coil of wire completely. I pinned the flap layers and bound them and placed it on top of the others making sure to keep the bottom of the flap parallel to the bottom edge, and finished it with a ladder stitch. I added a strap and buckle to allow easier hanging and removal from a belt or belt hanger, and when I added the rivets I carefully used an awl to place the holes so that I could later change it to a ribbon loop should I choose. You can see proof of usage of a strap and buckle as pictured on the statue of Isaiah

The Pictures from beginning to end are of the Blue Linen first then the Plumb Linen. I got so caught up in sewing the plumb that I forgot to take photographs as I made it. Many apologies.


Back Stitch, Running Stitch, ladder stitch (when attaching the front flap)

Sewing Techniques: Neckline Facing, Turning, clipping curves


Museum Links to Purses I studied online for making my pattern:

1.Embroidered Purse 1: 

2. Chaplain of a Bar Countess and her hinged frame Lady on a Griffin:

3. Purse of Jon of Brabant:

4. Isaiah wearing the Pouch showing the buckle and strap for placing on a belt:




5. Trapezoidal Pouch in the belongings of the Whore of Babylon:

6. Rosalie’s Medieval Woman:

7. La Cotte Simple:

8.  St. Thomas Guild: Some Pouches:

9. Larsdatter:

10.  Historical Costume; Blanche Payne 1965

11. The Book of Costume; Millia Davenport 1948

Sweet Pickled Plums for Marinus’s Birthday at Rip Rap War

Rip Rap War. That time of year where we in Atlantia fight over who owns a tiny little island in the James River Estuary. No one gets to visit said Island, but we fight over who owns it on a yearly basis…This Island is the now-decommissioned Fort Wool, located on a man made island called Rip Raps across the mouth of Hampton Roads Harbor from Fort Monroe, is also in Hampton.
This year was a Banner year at Rip Rap War. We had Three very very Talented Ladies Raised to the Order of the Laurel, and one very Chivalrous Man Knighted.
It was also the Barony of Marinus’s Birthday and on the Friday of the event they had a marvelous potluck. I made sweet pickled plums as my contribution to the food filled event. Someone made shepherds pie and it was to die for. Shout out to whomever they are, that stuff was the Bomb!
My contribution is an easy thing to make.
You’ll only Need:

2-3 pounds plums pitted and cut lengthwise into 1/4-1/2 inch wedge/slices.

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar/or 3 cups honey

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 tsp each Fennel, coriander and mint


Pack the plum slices into jars.

In a sauce pan put vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to rolling boil. remove from heat, stir and let cool 5 minutes with lid on pan. Pour the liquid into the jars until at the max line or 1/4 inch from the rim. Put on lids and let cool 30 minutes. If water canning follow the directions on the package of jars and canning pot.

Place the jars in the fridge and keep at the back of the fridge for 1 whole week, turning the jars over every day. Don’t Shake The Jars! it bruises the fruit and makes them mushy.

Good for Hard Pears, Early Peaches and other stone fruits.

I wonder what I shall make for Next year?

The Cappa Leonis Coronation Robe

I have been a participant and enthusiast of the Society for Creative Anachronism for many many years, and in all this time have heard of finding the One Thing. Yeah, people used to mention finding that one extant item that has all the things on it. That mythical thing. The One Thing to prove all their favorite techniques were used within the time period espoused in the SCA.
We all have a quest to find that One Thing, but for us embroiderers there is at least one anomalous item that has almost all the things on it. It’s Not a dress.  That One Thing or Criptid Extant Piece that according to many historians, back when the internet did not exist, could not possibly exist…because if they had not found it..nobody would…well…(yeah, I know…jerkiness does not become me..In my defense…It’s 330 am and the insomnia Fairy is visiting)
Thanks to the oh so lovely Internet and Tourists..Many Cathedrals have opened up websites that share those treasures in a grand gesture so that people will come and visit their treasures. And the tourists who visit those treasures have shared their photos of the visits and the exhibits. Good Gads..I wish I could travel.
Cuz the first place I so would visit is the Aachen Cathedral and it’s treasury, where textile geeks will find that Criptid Piece so craved.

Picture taken from the website listed at the bottom.
The Coronation Robe/Cappa Leonis is that Criptid Piece. Part of the Aachen Cathedral Treasure, this one Extant Item has all the Things.
Made in the 14th century…thats the 1300’ has appliqued gold roses, and couched decorative trees and vines and get this…tiny little birds made using tiny stuffed figures covered in detached button hole stitches..These birds are about the size of a us quarter. The all over design of this lovely Coronation Robe is little white and yellow flowers..of get this..French knots…of silk thread on scarlet silk velvet..with gold-work embroidery so well done it looks like woven gold bands appliqued as a grid border..I have always gotten told that French knots are not within period..Guess what this one instance..this one item..there they are in all their knotty glory..French knots..I doubt they called them French Knots in the middle ages..but whatever they called them back then..this stitch has come a long way.. Oh and don’t forget them little birdies. Modern embroiderers call that technique “Stumpwork”, but whatever they were called in the middle ages, finding them on one garment and made before 1650 is literally a gift from the gods. Layers upon layers of appliqued braid-work, intertwining vine-work, stumpwork birds, Laid gold-work and ribbon, and all on the front band…Wow…and the bottom hem itself is a marvel. Embroidered with the figures of all the saints and apostles and clapper-less silver bells that ring softly as the robe is worn. That thing must have wowed the crowds in a coronation when it was first finished.

Going to be in Germany this year?

Go and see for yourself the Cappa Leonis Coronation Robe at: and don’t forget to share those pictures. So that those of us who cannot travel can see that marvelous coronation robe through your lenses.

They updated the site and it’s dated for September ignore 15 September in the link…

Needful Needlework of the Day

Good Morning Ladies and Gents!

Today being the day before Independence Day here in the USA I will post a lovely stitch for you to learn. It’s Historic and was used by Elizabethan Englanders to decorate everything they could get it sewn on. Mostly in metallic passing threads of gold and silver, sometimes it was done in silk threads as well. Don’t believe me? ask the V&A Museum about some of their coifs.

here’s the link to learn it.