How to Make a Banner

Instructions for making a banner(*) with one of my printed panels from Spoonflower:

(*) Technically, it’s a gonfalon, a banner hung vertically from a crossbar.

(Looking for more banner panels like the one shown in the photo? My collection of all things SCAdian on Spoonflower can be found here. I even have solid colors that exactly match all my SCA-themed designs.)


Quilting the “Duke’s Dilemma” Blocks

Apparently the quilt block called Duke’s Dilemma is difficult to draw a pattern for (?), and difficult to piece because of all the curved lines… and then you have to figure out how to QUILT the whole thing once it’s pieced.

Several years ago, I made a small (about 45 by 60 inches) Duke’s Dilemma quilt. Pieced it and STARTED to quilt it, anyway — I am easily distracted by other projects. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I did get more than half of it quilted.

This is the quilting pattern I used, more or less:

I thought the circles at the corners where blocks met looked like stones in a stream (or rocks in a zen garden) because of the wavy lines formed by the edges of the other pieces, and I wanted to emphasize that. So I echo-quilted the “stream” and outlined the circles, plus added Celtic spirals in the circles.

Here’s a sketch of how those lines interact with the pieces of the quilt blocks:

I recently made a “cheater quilt” design for Duke’s Dilemma that I’ll be selling on Spoonflower. “Cheater quilt” is fabric printed to LOOK like patchwork, without having to piece it yourself. Technically, it’s the quilting that makes something a quilt, though, not the way the top layer is pieced or not. So using a “cheater quilt” fabric for the top layer, layering it with batting and backing fabric, and then QUILTING it is still making a quilt.

Anyway, for anyone who looks at that fabric with the Duke’s Dilemma pattern printed on it and thinks, ‘Okay, that looks a lot easier than piecing those curved shapes… but how do I QUILT it?’ this is one suggestion for that.

How to Get People Interested in Your Creatively Anachronistic Hobby

Or, Some ideas on how to draw more (positive) attention to your local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) group when out in public:

Have printed material (brochures, business cards, whatever) with information about the SCA.

My group (the Shire of Blackwater Keep) has printed tri-fold brochures to give to anyone who expresses interest in learning more about the SCA. (Find pdf for brochure here: We’ve been using an older version, with drawings instead of color photos: easier/less expensive to print, and the information is all the same anyway. We also add “Where to find us” info for our group, specifically: our website, Facebook page, etc.

Use some sort of signage to let people know who those “weirdos in the park” are and that we’re a friendly bunch who’d love to talk about our hobby.

For a while, we were using a printed-on-paper sign affixed to foamcore — it was inexpensive and easy to make — but this year we upgraded to a printed-on-fabric sign that won’t be harmed by rain, etc. We display this sign whenever we’re out in public doing SCA stuff (fighter practices, mostly, but also demos and such):

Notice that the sign itself has the “where to find us” URLs. This is so people can just take a picture of the sign with their phone and thus save the relevant info to look up later. This sign is rather large, too: 36 inches high by 54 inches wide, and displayed on wooden poles to hold it 6 feet above the ground so it’s visible to people driving/walking past. Remember, a sign doesn’t do much good if it’s not visible.

Make your space — and your people — colorful, interesting, and approachable.

Simple pennants waving in the breeze. Larger banners with the branch/kingdom device, or populace badge, depending on which is appropriate. Everyone in garb.

Our banners for kingdom and shire

If your out-in-public activity is a fighter practice, have at least one non-fighter present, someone who doesn’t look scary (as a person in armor and carrying a sword may), to talk to anyone who approaches and wants to ask about what you’re doing. (That’s the point of having a sign that says, “Come over and ask us about what we’re doing,” right?) This person doesn’t have to be the chatelaine or seneschal (although ideally it should be one or the other, since we’re the ones who officially have the responsibility to be ‘Speakers to Mundanes’), but it does need to be someone with decent communication skills.

Don’t swarm people who stop to watch whatever you’re doing — you don’t need to have every person not actively involved in fighting at that moment approach them at the same time — but don’t ignore them, either. Wave, say hello, invite them to come closer and take a look at the armor, weapons, shields, etc. … and then let them decide if they want to do so.

Especially when you’re doing a demo for non-SCAdians, be prepared to share information about this quirky hobby of ours. Do not ignore people who show interest, because they’re the people you’re doing the demo for, right? If it were only for those already members of the SCA, there’d be no reason to have it in public.

[Necessary disclaimer: Yes, I am a member of the SCA, and have been for several years. At this time, I’m seneschal in my local group. However, opinions expressed by me, on my own blog, should not be taken as any sort of “official” or “this is the way you MUST do it” statement from the SCA… or from me, for that matter. Suggestions are just that: suggestions. I’m sharing these suggestions because I want to see the SCA grow, especially the kingdom I live in, and it seems to me, based on observations of other groups’ events/demos, that little if any thought is usually given to getting new people interested and involved.]

Where to find my designs

You can find my designs for fabric (and wallpaper) on Spoonflower: red_tansy’s shop on Spoonflower: fabric, wallpaper and home decor If you’re a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, you may be interested in my “Patterns for Creative Anachronists” collection on Spoonflower. Also, “Inspired by Medieval Textiles” and “Patterns from the Renaissance” — and let’s not forget “Luttrell Psalter Beasties”! (“Squirrel at a Medieval Rave,” anyone? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

My Zazzle shop carries coffee mugs, some of which are designed with populace badges for various SCA groups. I also offer car magnets with those populace badges — populace badges, not kingdom devices. (Fun fact about SCAdian heraldry: If it has a laurel wreath on it, and you’re not king/queen, or a seneschal and thus Their Magesties’ “voice,” you’re not supposed to wear/use it.) Find it all here: Red_Tansy: Designs & Collections on Zazzle A more recent addition to my Zazzle shop is fabric, with many of the same designs I’m selling on Spoonflower. (A different range of fabric types, though — unbleached linen, for example, on which the colors print darker and with a rustic look.) Some of those coffee mugs also feature motifs used in my textile designs.

The most recent (as of November, 2021) addition to the list of places where you can find my fabric designs isโ€ฆย My Fabric Designs. ( They carry some types of fabric that canโ€™t be found on Spoonflower or Zazzle โ€” Iโ€™m looking forward to making something with that lovely cotton/silkย blend!

My Redbubble shop carries coffee mugs plus many other items, depending on the design: coasters, mouse pads, throw pillows, clocks, smartphone cases/skins, tote bags… Designs include a lot of SCA-themed stuff (just like my Zazzle shop). Red-Tansy Shop | Redbubble

And then there’s Society 6 ( where I’m also not offering t-shirts. ๐Ÿ™‚ I do have a lot of items in the following categories: Furniture, Home Decor, Bed & Bath, Tabletop, Office, Tech…

Red Tansy Plays With Fabric…

I’m taking a SHORT break from that Big Embroidery Project (which is more than half finished, and I WILL get it done by the deadline as long as the rest of my silk floss arrives in the mail in time) to update my Spoonflower stuff now that I have the first batch of test swatches.

*happy dance*

Some of the colors didn’t come out as expected, but I like most of those anyway. The “Renaissance wyverns,” for example, are more of a dark duck-egg blue than the light indigo I wanted (to imitate the borders on those Italian Renaissance towels) but I decided to keep the duck-egg color and make a new version of the design in the other blue.

Wanna see what the wyverns look like…? Here they are: (If you like that one, check out my Assisi-style goats in red.)

About that embroidery project… I have learned that I don’t like doing long-arm cross stitch, and I don’t like stitching over two threads (I already knew that, actually — when I use linen, I normally stitch over one thread, so 28-count is 28-count instead of 14), and I’m not crazy about filling in the void spaces between the motifs instead of stitching the motifs themselves. But I had to do it this way for this project, because I DO NOT want to get myself into trouble by disagreeing (with solid evidence to back me up!) with some laurel-wearing Creative Anachronist who insists that They Didn’t Have That Back Then. (“Even-arm cross stitch isn’t period!” Really? I’m sure Bess of Hardwick and her involuntary houseguest Mary would’ve been surprised to hear that. Or even, “No one ever used cotton for fabric before the invention of the cotton gin!” Then why did Renaissance-era Italy have laws about who could weave cotton-linen blends and who couldn’t? *sigh*) The next time I stitch this design, it’ll be over one thread and not “voidwork” style. And probably in even-arm cross stitch. Silk on linen again, though, because I like that aspect of this project.

Big embroidery project — wish me luck!

The red silk floss I’d ordered arrived in the mail today, and I got the 32-count linen a couple of days ago… so now I’m starting on my Big Assisi-Style Embroidery Project. ๐Ÿ™‚

This is what (half of) the design looks like:

That picture is my “redraw” of a pattern published in 1530. I know it looks a lot like the one by Bernhard Jobin, published in 1600, but it isn’t — the “newer” dragon has more scales and spots, for example:

Stitched over two threads on 32-count linen, the finished design will be 6.25 inches high and 18.25 inches wide.

As it turns out, I’ve never actually done long-arm cross stitch before. What I THOUGHT was that stitch is actually a form of herringbone stitch. (They look the same on the front, but the back threads go vertical for the cross stitch but horizontal for the herringbone.) So not only is this a HUGE embroidery piece but also the very first time I’ve ever done this particular stitch. I’ve already started and had to take out a few stitches SEVERAL times because if I don’t pay close attention, I revert to doing herringbone stitch again… I guess the herringbone just feels more natural since it’s more like the even-arm cross stitch I’m used to.

I HOPE I can get this project finished before the end of September and based on how long it took me to stitch just one dragon (regular cross stitch on 32-count over one thread), I can do it. If I don’t though, there’s always next year to enter it in an A&S competition.

There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Stack Hippocampi…

I mean the mythological sea-horse creatures, of course.

I’ve been playing with fabric design (“spoiler”: I’ll be offering many of these designs on Spoonflower soon — sooooooo many fabric designs) and the latest is one where I started with “hippocampi all around” and then… stacked them. In sets of four. The way ya do.

Just to be different, I made them copper-brown on light “cornsilk” gold instead of “ocean” colors like blue or green. I do have “ocean” colors for the all-around-only version but not the “stacked” design. Yet.

Yesterday after a lot of fighting with the repeats, I finally managed to make a fairly good imitation of an Italian brocade pattern from 1546. (Cotton/linen canvas printed with a brocade pattern is a practical way to get the look of the fancy fabric in something that can stand up to mock-combat and also not cost a hundred dollars a yard. Plus, they actually had printed fabrics to imitate brocade back then, so it’s “period” anyway.) So far, the colors I have for this one are all tone-on-tone: dark red, bright red, dark gold/light brown, and cobalt. I’m thinking of trying some color variations with more contrast, but I haven’t decided yet.

Nothing goes “live” for my Spoonflower shop until I get their color codes (the dyes they print with makes them not necessarily match what you think they’ll be, so checking against color codes before finalizing a design is highly recommended) and can make sure the colors I’ve chosen will print the way I want, but after that… Sooooooo many fabric designs. ๐Ÿ™‚

I think I’m about to start a scary-big embroidery project.

I want to do a real Arts-and-Sciences project this year, and I have all those patterns from the 1500s — there’s one from 1530 that I REALLY like.

Problems: The embroidery I do best and am most interested in is counted-thread work, especially cross stitch. The problem with that is a lot of people in the Society for Creative Anachronism INSIST, “Cross stitch isn’t period.” Then you point to all those Assisi-work pieces from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and they say, “Okay, but even-arm cross stitch isn’t period, only long-arm.” And you want to say, “Tell that to Bess of Hardwick!” (She and Mary, Queen of Scots, did a lot of even-arm cross stitch pieces with pictures of plants and animals.) But it doesn’t matter because someone who’s a Laurel for cooking says cross stitch isn’t period, and that’s that. (What do all those museums know anyway?)

I want to do something with counted-thread embroidery and those patterns from the 1500s. Assisi work, maybe? (That’s when the background is filled in with stitches instead of the “real” part of the design.) Even though some people insist that “fill in th ebackground” long-arm cross stitch is the only kind ever done “Back Then,” I know that’s not true — I even saw museum photographs of fragments based on patterns I have in my “period patterns” stash. (And a piece of embroidered net with THAT wyvern! Definitely that wyvern and not the one like it from 1600 because the later one has different scales and different tail shape.)

I tested my favorite pattern and it would look good in white on a red background, and there are no areas that would get “lost” by the stitches around it pushing in from the sides. That’s what happened the time I tried to do long-arm cross stitch over 1 thread on 28-count linen. Based on small test bits I stitched recently, 25-count is the smallest I can go and not lose parts of the design from “thread pressure.” If I use 28 or 32-count linen, I have to stitch over 2 threads. I don’t like doing that because I don’t like stitches that big and I have trouble keeping two strands of floss neat anyway. See, I’m actually “cheating” by usually doing really small stitches that let me use only one strand of floss because it’s easier for me to make the stitches neat that way!

According to all those museum photos of counted-thread embroidery from this period, the stitches were done over more than one thread of the fabric.(I can’t tell how many — 2 or more than 2? — because the photographs aren’t high-resolution enough for me to count fabric threads. I can count embroidery stitches though and that helps with other things.) The size of the stitches compared to the size of the fabric seems to indicate about 18 count, maybe 16 or 14. (This is smaller than the stitches in those even-arm cross stitch pieces by Bess and Mary — those look like 13-count or maybe 12.)

I’ve done small test swatches of stitches with 2 strands of silk floss — that’s what I’ll be using — on 28 and 32 count linen over 2 threads. The “14-count” looks too coarse and doesn’t have good coverage but the “16-count” looks right. I also tested 25-count with one strand of floss and that looks even better (I didn’t lose any gaps from “thread pressure”) but it’s too small for an A&S project.

The pattern I want to use would be 6 1/4 inches high and AT LEAST 18 inches long in 16-count. (It would be longer if I do more than one repeat of the pattern.) That’s big enough for a cushion cover or something. (I’m using bright red silk but maybe that would look good with “garnet” red around it if I do make this embroidery into a cushion afterward — I have some leftover silk from my husband’s fancy red “Herjolfnes 63” coat.)

I need to order some 32-count white linen before it’s out of stock again. And lots of red silk floss.

(IF I do this for for an A&S project, I have until the end of September to finish it. It took me 1 week to stitch the single wyvern — that’s the dark blue one from a previous blog post — that’s one of the major elements in the pattern I’ll be using. 2 of those plus the “trees” between them — I can do that in a month. I hope.)