Vedardottir’s Viking VeraStorium Design

Sometimes design ideas are simple: you have an idea, you draw it, and you’re good to go. Other times you have an idea, you draw it, and…you need to adjust it because it’s good but not quite right.

I am transitioning from making things for myself and my close friends into actually trying to make money selling things in the Society for Creative Anachronisms. I’ve worked for vendors in the past, so I have an idea of what to do: show up, bring a table, and display wares with price tags. Finally, it’s good to have a shop name and logo. Since I’m a Viking named Vedardottir, I thought a shop name with V’s would be fun. After playing with a lot of words, I decided to play with Veritasium, a bastardized Latin word for ‘Truth Serum’. I especially like the -ium ending, which is neutral case, instead of being male or female. (Yes, I studied Latin. I am over educated.)

Vedardottir’s Viking VeraStorium would have three Vs, like an inverted Valknut. Some neo-nazi groups use the Valknut as a symbol of hate, which meant I needed to modify it with more than shades of grey: this design can only be black and white.

Starting with outlines, I focused on the overlapping V shapes. The outline wasn’t quite correct, so I removed it in the next version. I tried to simply fill the three Vs, but without something to tie the design together as a whole, the last orientation looked boring.

Looking at the images above, I felt I needed to tie the knotwork overlap together. This element would need to have less visual weight then the Vs, so I decided it would need to be nothing but a white outline. Vikings are known for swords and axes, and a sword weaving between the Vs seemed the simplest solution. After several drawings of a Viking sword that didn’t seem to fit with the straight lines of the logo, I resorted to graph paper.

Building the sword into the design let it fade into a background image, instead of introducing jarring curves into a design of straight lines. Even when the design was filled, the white space around the handle seemed out of place. I added fill behind the handle, and the design solidified.

I dislike to use guess-and-check as a design process, but sometimes the only way to find the right solution is to try others. Each step of the process brought me closer to this outcome. I’ll take that as a Vivant-worthy Viking Victory!


Planning Creates Proper Placement


Part of the challenge fun of creating Heraldic Art is choosing where all the parts of the design should be placed. Each visual element needs to be identifiable. This submission features an oak tree, two ravens, and a chief with three Mjollners. (Mjollner is the name of the Norse god Thor’s hammer. It has been affectionately dubbed “meow-meow” by a minor character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) In this original submission, it is hard to distinguish the ravens, which are about the same size as the tree’s leaves. As Pallet Herald, my job is literally redrawing submissions like this one.PDFprint


My first step is to print the original art to copy it. I was sent this image of a raven to incorporate into the final design, so I used Paint to place the raven on the shield shape. The image appears to have two shields because I needed to scale the original slightly down so I would be able to trace the oak tree at roughly the correct size. (Smaller tree + larger ravens = everything is easier to see!)



Once I had the print-out, I placed it under a shield template of the correct size on my light box. I have a template of my Mjollner badge, but it has some small irregularities. I measured 1/4″ margins around the edge of the shield, and made sure there was 1/4″ between each Mjollner. I also elongated the roots of the tree so it would fill the space better. Finally, I made a point of drawing extra lines around each leaf. This creates outlines of white space between the solid black shapes, allowing the final image to be more than a black shadow.Redraw-Dyrfinna-Sigurdsdottir-device


The final image is precisely aligned, with easily distinguished ravens, oak tree, and a chief of Mjollners.


Heraldic Heartwarmers and Hangups

Many of the fine folks who work to register Heraldic Names and Devices are history nerds. The Society for Creative Anachronisms is full of history nerds, but Heralds tend to take our devotion to exponentially higher levels.

I love being an Art Herald, but I often find myself face-palming when I hear horror stories from people who dislike or even despise their Heraldry. When I ask why, the responses tend to be some form of, “My Herald made me do it this way.”

This does not bother me. “Bother” is too simple of a word to describe my anger and frustration with any heraldic consultant who forces their clients into a “proper” decision. Sometimes we heralds have to adjust the client’s design to fit within our rules, or to clear conflict. Adjustments are fine, but no client should ever hate their heraldry!!

The whole purpose of Heraldry is a visual display, declaring who you are to the world. Heraldry is the oldest form of Identify Friend or Foe. If a client does not love their Heraldry, then I feel I have failed as a Herald.

My rules for Heraldry are simple:

  1. Does the client like it?
  2. Does it fit within our rules? (Does it have color-on-metal and metal-on color for high contrast? Does it conflict with any other registered devices?)
  3. Is it registerable? (Some charges, such as testicles and swastikas, are forbidden.)

As long as the client’s design is covered by all three of these rules, I consider my work as a Herald well done. Not everyone agrees with me.

I have met Heralds who encourage clients to create period designs and will deliberately withhold information. All in the name of ensuring the  heraldry with their name as consultant is Properly Period and Will Not Make Them Look Bad.

I am not one of those Heralds.

I am the Herald of Helheim Yeah, Let’s Register That!


When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014, (A.S. XLVIII) there was a comparison meme floating around the interwebs. It shows a stark contrast between DC Comics being “edgy” and Marvel Comics being written for character depth and humor. Box office sales have shown well-written, witty movies are more well-liked than dark, boring brooding ones.

So when a friend asked for a green squid on a gold background, I went the extra mile. He has more Cthulhu memorabilia than I have Captain America paraphernalia.

Not only did I give him a color-on-metal completely registerable piece of Heraldry, I slapped wings on the squid, and then made them look like demonic horns. I also suggested he align the design Facing to Sinister,  because Cthulhu is the most sinister thing out there. The first design was my original submission, but I learned that both wings needed to be fully displayed and the tentacles could not overlap.


On the note of Marvel geekery, I have a lot of Captain America collectibles, most notably my shield backpack. This is me a few Pennsics ago, punching a Hydra street sign. Not shown are my Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. jackets, my Captain America shield cell phone case, wallet, keychain, cufflinks…well, you get the idea!

Do you want a tree and a raccoon wielding a gun on your Heraldry? Because I’m the Herald who will help you register it!

Sewing a Skjold (Viking) Hood

20180621_123037As a Viking reenactor, one of my challenges is recreating garments worn centuries ago, with no instructions on how they are put together. I read through several sets of instructions for how to make a reproduction of the hood found in Skjold Harbor. After several tries, I now understand how the squares and rectangles work together. I used this pattern to construct my  Pronoun Hood.

Explaining how to assemble this hood requires both color-coded diagrams and photographs of the assembly process. The photo on the right shows my completed hood.

The skjold hood pattern is deceptively simple: two rectangles (1-2 and 3-4) form the hood and sides, and the front and back panels are squares half the size of the rectangles (5 and 6).


I have colored each section’s edges to explain which edges should be sewn together. Black edges indicate the outer seams of the garment, and the dashed black lines show where the fabric folds.



The squares for my hood are one foot by one foot. I have made many more hoods since I made these diagrams, and I have found that a Medium sized head needs 13×13″ squares and a Large sized head needs 15×15″. A child’s hood is 11×11″.


HoodLayoutIsoThe hood is tricky to assemble because the edges align in an odd fashion.

First, join the two purple edges of (2) and (3) together to form a very long rectangle. Another way to make this hood from a piece of fabric one foot wide and six feet long, removing the need for the purple seam. The purple edge can be a fold or a seam, and sits over the top of the head.



Next, join the two red edges of (2) and (3) together. This seam sits over the back of the head. The black edges of (2) and (3) are the open front of the hood.



Starting at the end of the red seam, pin  and sew square (6) to the back to the hood. You will need to align the orange edges of (1) and (6) as well as the  brown edges of (4) and (6). Don’t start at one of the corners with a black edge, because the fabric can slip and misalign the entire hood.



The next step is the hardest. Carefully align the front of the hood to sew the front seams. I like to pin the open front of the hood (the black lines of (2) and (3) closed so they align. This ensures the front square (5) will align with the back square (6).

Finally, sew the blue edge of (5) to the blue edge of (1). Now you only need to roll the seam around the open front of the hood and its outer edge.


It looks strange, doesn’t it? When flat, the hood will look like this. I have drawn a person in the hood so you can see how it sits. The dashed lines indicate folds.

The Artistic Process

I have a degree in Architecture, and about a year before I graduated, I realized I was not suited to the field. I’m a draftsman and a technical artist, not an Artist. A large part of why I love drawing Heraldry is that it lets me use my skills as a designer, and I can trace any art that I cannot draw on my own.

Drawing Heraldry has helped me become more of a graphic designer and an artist. After five years as an Art Herald, I’m starting to understand how an Artist thinks and Designs.

In college, one of the concepts that confused me was the “Artistic Process.” Teachers kept asking to see my Process, and I’d be confused and explain that I was trying to design spaces that would best fit the needs of whoever was living or working there. As I was designing this prop, a wooden pallet to reflect my status as the new Pallet Herald, I finally wrapped my head around what the Artistic Process is.

Process is how the design changes and adapts as Art is created.


My first step was finding clip art of an artist’s pallet, and printing it on a full sheet of paper. I cut out the shape and played with it before deciding it was too small to display my badge and the paint blobs. So I adjusted the size and shape of the pallet, making sure the grip indent and hole for my thumb remained the same.

This image below shows how I was played with the pallet size. The thin blue line is the size of a list tree shield. I used my flexible curve to increase the size of the pallet by tracing the original print out, and then putting the curve on the outer edge. I did this three times.

I used D-rings to see how much space I would need for each paint blob. D-rings are leatherworking hardware, and I had a bag of them on hand. They were about the right size for my paint blobs, so I used them as a layout tool.
PaintLocations (2)


Once I had the spacing set, I used a leatherworking O-ring to draw circles for the paint blobs. I also folded the paper design in half, so I could be sure the hammer that’s my Personal Badge would be properly centered on the pallet.

This is an example of how the greatest difference between looking professional and slipshod is planning. Small things like folding a paper in half to find the center, or laying out designs on graph paper literally make the difference between a thing looking professional instead of slipshod. This is the reason I have a tag called graph paper solves everything.


After I traced the paint blob placement in pencil, I had the challenge of not making them look like perfect circles. Making things look irregular is trickier that it appears. After some fiddling, I decided to just make little circles with my brush until I had blobs of color. After the paint was dry, I took a white eraser and carefully removed my pencil lines.

Each of the colors on my pallet are used in Heraldry: Gules [red], Argent [white], Or [gold], Vert [green], Azure [blue], Purpure [purple], and Sable [black]. Pink, orange, and brown are almost never used in Heraldry. Grey and silver are both considered Argent [white].


After I painted my blobs and my hammer badge, I took a step back and really looked at the pallet. When I had only put the blobs of paint on my pallet, the rest of the wood was bare, and the unused space was not problematic. But after I added my hammer, the edge of the pallet looked bare and out of place.

This is where the Artistic Process comes in. I saw the empty space standing out, so I used my flexible curve to draw some guidelines for adding text. I lettered the pallet in the font I’ve created, which references the Norse Futhark Runes while still being readable Roman characters.


Frack! Paint is supposed to go on the pallet, not on my hands! This is why painters wear smocks.

As I was putting the letters on my pallet, I realized “Pallet Herald – of the East Kingdom” was passive voice. I changed my pencil lettering to “Pallet Herald – Kingdom of the East.”

After the painting was done, I put a coat of polyurethane over the entire pallet to seal it. Because I am the klutz who has dropped and entire horn of coffee over everything.


Promoting my Preferred Pronouns

Ten years ago, I had never heard the word “transgender.”  Since then, transgendered people have become a focus of the media, often not in a good light. Once I became aware of this, I stepped forward as an ally, making sure to always address people by the pronouns they prefer and help in any other ways I can.

In the midst of this, I learned there was another category of people who were not transgender, but rejected cultural assumptions based on gender assignments. These people are Genderqueer, and if you’re interested in learning more about this, here is the Wikipedia article.

I am a genderqueer person. I prefer it if people address me with the singular ‘they’, as well as the pronouns ‘their’ and ‘them’. I have begun wearing a button explaining my pronouns. The singular ‘they’ can replace ‘she’ or ‘he’ in speech, such as “Is that their hood? Why would they make look like that?”

HoodWithin the confines of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, there is a heated debate about gender expression. The SCA is dedicated to creating living history before 1600 C.E. and most historical cultures only acknowledged two genders. But just as the SCA uses modern medical and cooking practices, we are also addressing how to incorporate non-binary genders into our Society.

My persona is a Viking Shield Maiden, a woman who wears mens’ clothes and fights alongside them. I chose to have a Viking persona for a number of reasons, and being  a female doing “male” activities was a large part of my persona choice. In order to display my pronouns, I created a square Skjoldehamn hood. My Badge and my Silver Wheel awards are embroidered on the front panel, and my pronouns are embroidered around the outer edge.


In addition to having THEY – THEM – THEIRS embroidered around the edge, I also sewed a piece of velcro with a rare earth magnet to the underside of the shoulder. This allows my Heraldic Cat Plushie to stay on my shoulder when I walk around events.



I was worried that sewing a strong magnet to my hood would cause trouble in the washing machine, so I only sewed a square of velcro to the hood. The matching piece of velcro has the magnet sewn in. I also opened a seam on the plushie and added a magnet to it.


Finally, I added a pocket to the front of the hood. I have a habit of chatting with people at events and forgetting my shoulder bag. With my SCA business cards in this pocket, this is much easier. I “hid” the pocket’s attaching seam behind the black embroidery of my Badge.

Making this hood was easy. Being recognized as a genderqueer person will be much harder, but it is a good first step.

In conclusion, I would like to discuss my choice of colors for this hood. I used bright silver thread for the Silver Wheel and my name and pronouns, black thread for my badge and name pronunciation, and dark gray thread for the seam treatment. The silver thread has high contrast against the blue fabric, and draws attention. The black thread has a lower contrast, and draws some attention. The dark gray thread has very little contrast to the blue, and almost disappears into the fabric.

High contrast colors draw the viewer’s attention. In order of importance, my hood is designed to showcase my Wheel and Pronouns, show my Badge, and have some detailing.


A Tale of Two Chinstraps

PaintedHelmMany of my blog posts are dedicated to the sport of Heavy List fighting. The Society for Creative Anachronisms counts its members in hundreds of thousands, with roughly ten to twenty percent are fighters. This means not many sports equipment items are mass produced (aside from repurposed hockey and lacrosse gear). Fighters spend a lot of time creating, maintaining, and modifying their gear.

Heavy List helms are often the most expensive part of a fighter’s armor kit. This is my helm, made by my friend Hjalmar. He makes simple, solid, inexpensive helms and is willing to do a small amount of custom work for a bit extra. If you’re wondering why I have an oddly shaped “F” on my helm, it’s me being geeky. That rune is Ansuz, which is an “A” in the Old Norse alphabet. I chose it because I enjoy having a Viking version of Captain America’s helm. This is my creative anachronism.

Enough about my helm. This is a post about chin straps. Chin straps are a small part of a fighting kit, and they’re easy to not think about. I was fighting Duke Brennan in a tournament last year, and my helm slid off because I didn’t have a secure chin strap. I hope to live that down someday, but in the meantime I have put a lot of thought into chin strap designs. The photo shows my three piece chinstrap on the left, and the single piece chinstrap on the right.


I created a PDF of the patterns by scanning the graph paper design I used for these two types of straps:   VedardottirChinStraps

WordPress does not display a preview PDFs,  so here is a small screen capture of the file.

When you print the PDF, be sure to choose the option that allows the PDF to expand to fill the entire page. “Fit to page” is the key phrase on most printers.


Making your chinstrap will require a 5×8″ piece of leather that is as thick as a leather belt. You will need rivets and an anvil in addition to the tools described in my post Beginning Sewing and Leather Working.


leathertapedI cut the pattern out and placed it on the leather. Next, I taped the pattern onto the leather with masking tape. This keeps the pattern from sliding off the smooth leather as it is cut.


Finally, punch the holes, then fold the leather over and rivet it together. This photo shows the loops of the more complicated chin strap. The strap cut from a single piece of leather simply folds over.