Saturday, 27 March 2010

When Not in Rome

In preparation for being Roman tomorrow at Archaeolink Prehistory Park, I have spent the last few hours whipping up some suitable jewellery. In case any historians, archaeologists or other knowledgeable parties stumble across this blog, these items are not attempting to be authentic reproductions as, at the very least, I admit to having used modern materials and tools, they are merely inspired by ancient Roman jewellery.

I have spent some time pouring over photos of real archaeological jewellery finds to get a feel for the style and techniques used. There is plenty to choose from but it seemed best to start with something relatively simple, particularly as my Roman persona is not a noble woman in Rome but a merchant woman in the far flung province of Britain. The photo that follows shows necklace, earrings, cuff bracelet and ring made with brass wire and carnelian chips. There is also a copper wire hairpin that I forgot to include. After a little more practice I hope to make some similar items for sale.

My future plans certainly include one day having the equipment, materials and skills to produce truly authentic pieces but, for now, I will have to satisfy myself with these Romanesque examples.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

With Needle in Hand ...

I'd really forgotten how satisfying hand sewing can be. And surprisingly quick if you don't have huge numbers of seams and hems, which is mostly the case with ancient Roman clothing.

My husband's braccae and my son's trousers and over tunic have appeared almost as if by magic. My peplos, however, is a little discouraging. Not only do I have multiple seams and edging to do since the modern fabric I'm using has to be cut to size (as I lack slaves to weave me fabric of the perfect dimensions) but my outfit also bears more than a little resemblance to a sack. It would appear that, contrary to the somewhat skimpy Roman fancy dress costumes that proliferate on the Internet, ancient Roman women took a great deal of trouble to wrap themselves in vast quantities of fabric. Not that I should be surprised, statues of clothed Roman women sometimes show no more than face and hands beneath a tower of folds. But the presence of pleats and folds may well be my answer. I hope that after repeated washing, folding and flattening I may get my fabric to drape in a vaguely attractive manner.

If all else fails my consolation is this, my huge swaddling of cloth should at least keep me warm while the winds howl through the tents of our small Roman camp. And I am already considering a second outfit, made with a much finer and lighter linen (that I have yet to source) in case we actually get some sun this Summer.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Eye of the Storm

Well there's another week gone while I wasn't looking. I'm sure it shouldn't be allowed to do that.

Doesn't it sometimes seem like you are caught up in a whirlwind of activity that just seems to be taking you round in circles? This week seems to have left me still dizzy and without that much to show for it. At least I have made a number of new pieces of jewellery with my polymer clay beads, that I just need to find time to photograph properly (but here's a sneak peek at three of them).

I also think I'm ready to start sewing Roman clothing for my family's roles in the Ninth Legion ( and I have compiled a list of accoutrements I'd either like to buy or make myself (some more new skills to add to my To Do List). At some future date, photos of the ensembles are sure to appear here.

Well, I think the eye of the storm is passing so it's back to the twister for me.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Watching Nature Work

Today I'm not thinking about crafts, I'm thinking about Spring. The snow drops are out in my garden (yes, probably everyone else is over it by now but this is the North of Scotland and we're a bit behind) and it was actually quite warm in the sun.

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of all the little green spikes that are currently crowding up through the soil, which isn't bad since some of them were actually pushing up through leftover snow just a couple of days ago. Last year I had the most gorgeous forest of muscari (pictured below, lacking in sunshine) along my front path, backed by daffodils. As I leave all my bulbs to their own devices, apart from a little helping hand distributing seeds to other parts of the garden, they'll probably be thicker than ever. In fact, I doubt there is any soil left between the bulbs in that particular section, they are just too tightly packed to fall over.

And as I walked my son home from school I was admiring everyone else's crocuses because I still haven't got around to buying myself any. I probably had people wondering what I was doing leaning over their fences and gesticulating at the ground. So before my neighbours decide I'm a danger to their gardens, I should make myself a shopping list and actually purchase the plants I drool over.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Fabulous Fabric

After a two week break it's back to my Sunday feature spot and time for some local loveliness. Aileen Clarke is based in Fife, Scotland and makes beautiful textile art and jewellery.

I really love these cuff bracelets (hope hubby is paying attention) in those incredible colours and with so much detail. But, if jewellery is not your thing, Aileen also does bookmarks (for those who would never participate in the sacrilege that is folding down the corner of a page), cards and art for your walls. Something for everyone, really. I really don't think I need to say more because these lovely things speak for themselves.

To see more go to or

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Double Duty

I'm in a quandary. I can't decide which of two things I want to talk about today. But as this is my blog, for once I don't have to struggle with my eternal indecisiveness because I can do both.

Probably most importantly, I made my first piece of jewellery with my own beads. Technically, this is actually the second piece (as I already made a gift for a friend) but it is certainly the first commercial piece. Now that I've opened the can of worms further pieces should be forthcoming. This also has an added advantage - it's the only way I'm going to be able to let go of the beads. I've included a sneaky peek picture below (the bracelet will now go in my photography box for official shots later in the month).

More excitingly, my second mention is that I made my own lip balm. Not rocket science, I know, but I'm pleased. My son likes it too - in fact, he wants to take it to school for show and tell next week, although I have my doubts about how exciting this will be for his classmates. Maybe this will encourage me to start making more of my own body products - I've always wanted to try bath bombs, I'm fussy about face cream and I've had soap making ingredients in my craft cupboard for at least a year. I knew that list of jobs as long as my arm was getting way to short!

On a final note, my fan page giveaway gets drawn today (as soon as I can accost some passerby and get them to stick their hand in a hat!).

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Chainmaille Bracelet Giveaway

Usually Sunday is my feature day but I missed last week and now I haven't been organised enough for today either. It just goes to show that even with the best of intentions things don't always work out how you plan (or not plan, as the case may be). So to make things easy I'm going to feature my fanpage giveaway - almost everyone loves a freebie after all.

I'm offering up a chainmaille bracelet in a weave of my own design, which I even got listed on the Maille Artisans International League website ( I've called the chainmaille pattern Handfast Weave as it reminds me of two people clasping hands. The bracelet is made using lightweight bright aluminium and has a handmade hook clasp of silver craft wire.

For a chance to win this bracelet go to where you can find the details of how to enter. Best of luck!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Sewing up Aladdin

The sewing machine made it out of the cupboard today. This is not a sign of major organisation but an emergency measure, as indicated by the fact that the sewing machine is balancing on a small stool next to the sofa.

This is one of those "there's nothing we wouldn't do for our kids" moments. As a costume is required for tomorrow (technically, the costume is optional but not in the mind of a 6 year old) all possible steps to produce one must be taken. So, major scavenge through my fabric to locate that particular blue remnant, bought months ago for I forget what, that should be perfect for an Aladdin jacket. Happily this was sitting next to an old sarong in matching blue and my ribbon box also supplied a close match. For the next step (Warning: do not try this at home), due to lack of a pattern, just fold fabric and cut to an approximate shape and then sew it all together.

My reward this afternoon was a delighted son who offered cuddles and kisses. And no sign of disappointment that I chose not to attempt a turban.