Making a Heraldic Plushie

Winged Lioness Rampant
One of the silly things I’ve seen SCA members do is buy (or make) plushies of their Heraldry. Since my Heraldry is a silver winged cat, I doubt I’ll be able to buy an off-the-shelf plushie anytime soon.

After some thought, I realized I could just get a white cat plushie and find a similar bird or bat plushie to use for wings. Since Beanie Babies are small and made from similar materials, I was able to find a white cat and a swan on eBay cheaply. (When I posted about this on my FaceBook, someone mentioned the swan plushie is often given red sequins and presented to a new Pelican.)

A little work with a thread and needle, and I give you Argent, my Winged Lioness plushie. I also decided to make her a collar with my badge, since she should be identifiable as one of my possessions. Badges are the Heraldic equivalent of saying, “This is mine.”


Building a Brick Oven at Pennsic

Camp Crook’d Cat in on the Serengeti, on The Strand near the solar showers. The camp focuses on cooking period meals over a campfire and in a brick oven. These photos were taken on Setup Sunday of Pennsic 45.2016-08-01-10-57-14

Before the oven goes in, a wooden box is constructed and filled with dirt. This adds to fire safety and provides a level space to build the oven floor. The floor and roof are made from paving tiles, and the sides are built with brick.


Making sure the floor is flat is critical for even cooking, so we use a carpenter’s level to check the paving stones’ alignment. We make sure to check each paving stone as it is added to the oven.



Finally, the oven floor is complete. Note how the tiles butt against each other, with no cracks running the length of the oven.





The first row of bricks for the oven walls are leveled, and carefully measured against the oven doors. Sometimes we can use doors for a few years.




Because the Pennsic site is on top of a bed of clay, we can use clay and water to cement the bricks. Mudding the bricks is very similar to frosting a cake. As each row of brick is added, we check it with a level and use extra clay and small stones to ensure the walls are even.



The third layer of bricks juts into the oven to form a shelf for trays of bread. Cakes, pies and other baked things also use these shelves.



Every row requires verification that the oven is being built evenly. It’s annoying, but uneven ovens don’t bake at a constant temperature. (The one picture I wish I could share would show the walls having its alignment tested. This also helps the oven bake evenly.)2016-08-01-16-25-09

The top of the oven is completed with large paving stones. Mudded bricks cover the crack on the top of the oven, ensuring even heating throughout.


Here’s the completed oven, waiting for logs to be shoved inside so it can heat. Doors at both ends make this part of the process easier and safer for the cooks.

Sekanjabin – Medieval Gatorade

Sekanjabmin is a Middle Eastern drink made by adding syrup to water. It combines sugar and vinegar to replace electrolytes lost through sweat.  The first time I made sekanjabmin, I followed Cariadoc‘s drink recipe.

At Panteria last weekend, I had the privilege of trying a much more flavorful version of the drink. The bar owner gave me his recipe:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer.
  2. Add 8 cups of sugar and bring the water to a boil.
  3. Add 1 cup white vinegar (apple cider vinegar is also good).
  4. Simmer the mixture just below a boil for 30 minutes.
  5. Add a handful of flavoring (orange, lime, or lemon zest and juice) and keep the mixture at a simmer for another 30 minutes.
  6. Strain the mixture into a container, cool, and serve.

Don’t Rush Sewing!


One danger of sewing is rushing to finish a project. This can lead to all sorts of mistakes, from forgetting to press your seams with an iron to stabbing yourself with a needle. (Many crafters believe that a project isn’t “yours” until you’ve bled on it. My project goals include not having to use my First Aid kit.)

I’m going on a road trip in a few days, and I wanted to bring some projects to work on en route. One of the things on my to-make list is a Norse tunic to wear when I’m volunteering at Heralds’ Point. Most of my garb is blue with silver accents, but because author Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds wear all white, many Scadian Heralds do as well.

I have learned that the easiest way to construct a Norse T-tunic is to cut out the torso pieces, lay them flat, and complete the neck opening while the entire project is flat.


In order to keep the fabric of the neck from fraying, I sew a rectangular piece of cloth that comes down to a point around the neck. All of my other projects have a contrasting color of fabric at the neck and cuffs, but this project is all about white fabric, blue train, and blue stitching in contrast to the white.

Because this tunic doesn’t have a contrasting collar, I didn’t  bother to stitch the under layer neatly before I added the trim. I didn’t notice how  irregular it was until after I’d finished stitching the trim. I considered removing all the stitching and redoing this properly.

I have chosen to keep the irregular neck. It is not only a useful reference point for my progression as a historical seamstress, but a way of showing newer sewers what not to do. The complexity of Scadian garments can be daunting to newcomers. I’m keeping this as a reminder that nobody becomes an expert without a few mistakes.

All About Paint

paint2Mundanely, I went to school for Architecture. I took a number of artistic classes including photography and painting. I fell in love with acrylic paint, which was fast-drying, easy to work with, and could be cleaned with water. I have artistic friends who swear by oil paint. (I tend to swear at oil paint because it takes days to dry!)

While acrylics were nice, they had a tendency to crack and chip if applied to a flexible surface. My LARP interests drew me to Liquitex Paint, which is flexible when dry. Panther Primitive Tents recommend Liquitex Paint for adding details to their canvas tents. They recommend  watering down the Liquitex to a ratio of three parts water to one part paint.

pursewipAlso, this stuff keeps indefinitely. Back in 2009, I was planning to attend the World Science Fiction Convention is Montreal. Author Seanan McGuire was also attending, and I’d been chatting with her via LiveJournal for about a year. I really wanted to make her a piece of Fan Art to thank her for making me giggle with silly posts. She said she loved the color orange and My Little Pony, so I painted a pony onto a purse I bought secondhand. This was the base coat: I’d printed a pony picture, cut it out, and traced the outline with paint.

pursedoneThis is the finished purse. I painted white highlights over Applejack’s hair, and added a black outline. This is exactly the same technique I use to paint heraldry onto shields. In fact, the bottle of yellow paint in this photo is the same one I’m using today. (The white bottle gave up its ghost for the Pennsic Heraldry Boards.)

Painting is fun; it’s like tracing with a brush. And if you mess up with Liquitex, just take a piece of damp paper towel to the bad section, remove the offending paint, and draw the lines again. Painting isn’t hard; it’s tricky. Knowing the tricks makes all the difference between the work of a novice verses a master.

Choosing Your Heraldry

The SCA is a complex game based on history. We create personas that might have lived in the Middle Ages, giving them names, backgrounds, and the heraldry they might have displayed. Choosing heraldry for your persona is complex, and deeply personal. Consider your heraldry with the same care and thought as you might choose a tattoo: this is a piece of artwork that will define who you are in the Society. Armory can be changed, but like removing a tattoo, it takes time and money.

The two biggest things to consider when you register your heraldry are:

  1. How easily can someone identify your heraldry?
  2. Is it different enough from everyone else’s heraldry?

Heraldry is the oldest form of Identifying Friend or Foe. Battles are loud, confusing, and messy. If you saw a person running toward you on the battlefield, you would have seconds to see their shield, identify the heraldry, and know if that was your ally or enemy. This is why heraldry should be as simple as possible, while still standing out.

Creating heraldry that stands out relies on color contrast. This means you put light things on dark things, or dark things on light things. To make this easier, heralds recognize two metals, gold and silver, which are drawn as yellow and white. Metals go on colors, and colors go on metals. The colors heralds recognize are Red, Green, Blue, Purple, and Black. Almost all heraldry has a white or gold component, and at least one color.

Think about what colors you want for your heraldry. Many people choose garb based on their heraldic colors, much like the costumes seen in Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. What colors suit you? Storm clouds of silver and blue? Bumblebee yellow and black? Green with silver snakes?

Next, consider what animals, shapes, or objects you most identify with. Do you love your blacksmith’s anvil? Wolves? Swords? Owls? Or do you have a funny story about how you pulled a flaming chicken off the stove while cooking a Feast? Come up with an idea for your heraldry, and heralds will adjust it to meet registration requirements.

capshieldOnce you have an idea for your Heraldic Design, All The Rules come into play. One of the big rules is that you can only have three “layers” on heraldic “cake:” the background, and two more layers on top of it. Backgrounds can be a single color, or divided into two or three colors, and backgrounds can be patterns. For example, Captain America’s shield is red, with a silver double border around a blue circle and a silver star. The background is red, the silver border and the blue circle are on the second layer, and the silver star is the third layer. Notice how the blue and the red fade don’t pop out as much? The silver border and the star are easier to see because they have high contrast. I love Cap’s shield, it but wouldn’t be registerable because of the blue and red.

After the design is worked out, your intended heraldry must be Conflict Checked. The College of Heralds has a database of all the Registered Heraldry, Badges, the Arms of every Kingdom, Barony, and Shire, and all of the designs for their Awards. It’s a lot, but there are so many color and design combinations that no matter what you want, you probably will have no conflicts , or only conflict with a few people. This is why you will often hear Scadiens say things like, “Oh, I wanted a silver lion for my heraldry, but I had to make it a winged lion to clear conflict.” Adding wings, an aquatic tail, or a border around your design are common ways to clear conflicts.

Once your Consulting Herald has checked for conflicts, they will find an Art Herald to draw your heraldry. That paperwork is submitted for consideration online, where a lot of Heralds can look at it, comment on it, triple-check that there are no conflicts, and make sure your device isn’t offensive. Giant phalli and swastikas were period, but they are not acceptable to modern eyes.

After you have assembled your heraldry, name, and documentation, you will need to submit the paperwork to your kingdom’s submissions herald. Unless you are at a large event like Pennsic, this will involve mailing the paperwork in addition to the processing fee. Fees vary by Kingdom.

Please be aware that you can register your name alone, but you cannot register your heraldry alone. All registered heraldry must be accompanied by a name. This lets the Heralds post your heraldry for consideration without mentioning your legal name.

Final Thoughts:
Don’t worry if your heraldry is something you can’t draw. An Art Herald will be drawing your design and scanning it for commentary. You can keep a copy of the scan and enlarge it to fill a page, or even split the drawing and print it on multiple pages taped together. Cut it out, trace it onto your shield, and Blam! You can paint your heraldry!

When you go to register your heraldry, it will be referred to as your “device.” Your heraldry will not be referred to as your “arms” until you have been granted an Award of Arms (AoA) by your Kingdom. The Award of Arms is usually the first award a newcomer is given, and it sometimes takes two or three years to receive this. Don’t worry if you haven’t received this award yet. You can still display your heraldry however you would like.

Badges don’t fall under the Award of Arms rule because badges don’t care. Badges are quick and simple to draw. Badges just identify your stuff, and are easy to clear of conflict if they are fieldless. (Fieldless means that the badge has a “clear” background. Any fieldless submission automatically had one step of difference from every other registered device, which makes conflict checking easy.)  Many people believe they don’t need no stinking badges, and just put their heraldry on their stuff.

What’s in a (Heraldic) Name?

The SCA is a very complex game based on history. We create personas that might have lived in the Middle Ages, giving them names and backgrounds. Choosing a name for your persona is complex, and deeply personal.

When looking for a name, knowing the rough time period and culture you would like is key. The things you should consider are often related to what brought you into the SCA. Do you love to shoot arrows? Fight? Fence? Dance? Cook? And archer might have an English persona. A fencer would probably lean towards a late period Italian or French persona. A fighter might prefer a Viking or Roman persona. When in doubt, earlier period is simpler in terms of clothing, armor, and accoutrements.

Once you have a culture and time period, ask a Herald for name resources. There are many SCA websites like the Viking Answer Lady with lists of names and their meanings.

When you look for a name, please don’t start at the front of the alphabet. There are more names beginning with “A” than any other letter in the Society for this reason. Your name should be your own. Flip around. Pick a few letters. Look at “I” and “K” and “T” names. Check out the end of the alphabet.

When you have a few names you might consider, show them to your friends. Ask how they would say those name. Think about ways that name could be mispronounced. If you have a name with unusual characters, coming up with a mnemonic for pronunciation is helpful. My name, Þórý, is often mispronounced “Poury,” so my mnemonic is that my name is said like “Hooray!” with more Thor.

If you don’t want a period name, the Legal Name Allowance may be helpful. The Heralds will register one component of your legal name, be it you first, last, or middle name. The reason only one component of your name can be registered is because you are not your persona.

Once you have a first name, you will need to choose a last name and/or a place of origin. Both parts of your name need to be documentable within 300 years of each other, from the same culture or from cultures that interacted with each other. You could have an English/French name, but a French/Japanese one is not registerable.

Locations are interesting because you can be from a place in history or from your local SCA group. If you want to be from a historical place, you must provide period documentation of that place’s name, because spellings can change over time. If you want to register a locative of an SCA group, that group must have registered its name.

Finally, if you don’t want to go through the process of choosing a name and surname, you can always register “[First Name] of [your local group].” This is sometimes called a “holding name” and can be important if you submit your name and device together, but for some reason your name doesn’t pass the registration process.

Once you have assembled your name and its documentation, you will need to submit the paperwork to your kingdom’s submissions herald. Unless you are at a large event like Pennsic, this will involve mailing the paperwork and a processing fee. Fees vary by Kingdom.