Twelve Gifts of Christmas

Dame Aoife returns to us after her job-induced hiatus, just in time to offer a collection of clever gift ideas for the holidays!

Greetings my faithful readers, from someone who has come back from the dead! Well, not really. The truth is less sensational. I had the job from hell for much of the past year. It ate me alive. I stopped doing everything I loved because my brain hurt at the end of the day. So, the good news is I don't work there anymore (and my blood pressure is way down). And the other good news is that I have the time to get back to the things I really love: family, research, the SCA and other historical groups, and my extended readership family. I have missed you so much! Please accept my apologies for my prolonged absence.

The theme of this links list is, of course, gift-giving for the holiday season. We all have partie sto go to, and gifts to provide, no one one parties like the SCA populace! But I've done that Links List before ( So most of these new gift ideas are for gift kits you can give to the handy people in your group.They have the joy of receiving the gift, the joy of making the gift, and the joy of thinking of you as they do so. What could be more perfect? And the good news: assembling the "ingredients" is a lot less work than making the item. That leaves you with lots of time for your self, a life essential I have recently come to appreciate a great deal.

Happy Holidays!



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

Cumdachs and Polaires: Medieval Irish Book Shrines and Book Satchels
My suggestion for a gift is the book satchel, a Polaire. Does it look familiar in the photos (see link at top of page)? This is very similar to some modern hand-bags, which you may well be able to find in stores (just remove the lining). I myself bought something almost identical at JC Penney a month ago. The bag would make an excellent gift along with a blank book and some illumination or calligraphy supplies. If you want to make the kit or the bag itself, Pre-tooled leather is usually available for purchase from Tandy Leather Factory, some fabric stores sell a remarkable similar faux leather, or you could tool your own. There is no how-to, but the bag looks very simple. Create a pattern based on the illustration (all rectangles). Add leather, a needle, and sinew. Voila! A kit. (Site Excerpt) Specialists in the book arts who wish to study Irish work have been known to lament the lack of specimens that directly compare with continental practice; witness the despair of one writer who doesn't know quite what to make of those medieval Irish bookmakers: "But though a number of box-form book-shrines such as the Cathach and the Soiscel Molaise survive, and some few leather book-satchels such as that of the Corpus Christi Missal and that associated with the Book of Armagh, we have no real knowledge of what an early Irish binding was like" (Craig 1976:2). This paper is a brief overview of what the Irish did do with their books.

Regia Anglorum: Quills
What calligrapher wouldn't give their eye teeth to try their hand (pun intended) with the real thing? A batch of feathers, an appropriate small knife, and directions would make a wonderful gift. Perhaps you could include some home-made ink? See links at the bottom of the page for ink recipe. (Site Excerpt) Throughout our period various breeds of birds were used to supply different quills, including duck, goose, swan and pheasant. Having chosen your quill you will need to decide whether to strip the plume. The choice is yours as illustrations show them both plumed and stripped. If you attempt to cut the quill it could well shatter, so before cutting immerse the tip into boiling water for a few seconds. This will give the quill the consistency of a finger nail. You may now cut the nib, cutting horizontally across the root. Clean out the matter within the quill, then make two diagonal cuts that come to an apex at the point. Carefully cut along the centre of the point for approx. 10mm. You can now chose the width of the nib by simply cutting it.

Rainbow Gallery Free Blackwork Designs
This site has downloadable blackwork designs (free). Add the appropriate fabric, black silk (and/or other colors), needles, maybe a thimble, and a hoop or a pin cushion. Instant kit! (Site Excerpt) These free downloadable sample charts have everything that you need except fabric, needle, and thread.
See Also:
X-Calibre Designs: Learn Blackwork

Card Weaving
Bart and Robin Blankenship
This site gives simple directions to make your own cards, and then proceeds to show how to accomplish a beginner's weaving project. How simple it would be to make the kit (make the cards), print the directions, package it all attractively and give as a gift! Warning: Card-weaving is addicting. (Site Excerpt) We are going to give you directions to weave a strap that is strong enough for pack straps, basket handles, tumplines, and saddle cinches. If you do a pattern like the one we are giving directions for, than it will be lovely enough for curtain ties, belts and other uses too. We will give you a pattern that takes 12 cards and 2 colors of cord. If you don't want a pattern in the strap, just use all one color cord. This strap will be five feet long, but you can make it any length you want.

Phiala's String Page: Felt Balls
Phiala's pages have tons of great information for the rabid do-it-yourself viking (and other historical) type person who is enamored of fiber arts. You need colored or plain wool, a cute little bottle of appropriate (and nice smelling) dish liquid, possibly a super-ball for the center or a bell, Instructions, and a small bag to put it all in. I chose this particular project because even kids will love to do this. And, your pets might just love a felt ball with a bell inside! The text is copy protected, so I can't past here, BUT, the project looks very fun. A great way to spend the afternoon over Xmas break! Thanks, Phiala!

Medieval Roses
This site lists the many types of roses found in the middle ages, and also the places you can purchase them. Granted, it's the wrong time of year to grow roses, at least where I live. But how lovely--and point-scoring with your resident gardener--would it be to give not just a bouquet, but a lifetime of roses? A medieval garden plan from Romance of the Rose - and Gardens at, a gift certificate from an heirloom garden center, and a set of tools or one of the books in the bibliography, and a pledge of free labor with your hand-penned note. Very romantic! This gift idea works well with herb gardens as well. See Stefan's Florilegium for other gardenign ideas and seed sources at

Apple Tart or Orange Tart
Recipes courtesy of Gretchen Miller (Margaret MacDuibhShithe in BMDL)
This site contains the redaction for two delicacies. The recipes are straightforward and represent an excellent gift for the cook on your list. Not the tart, but a beautiful basket with the ingredients! Imagine a lovely basket piled with apples, oranges, ginger, honey, lemons, get the very fragrant picture! Hand-write the recipe on an index card or decorative holiday card, or print it out and put it in a recipe box to include with the basket. There's your gift, easy to assemble, and in perfect taste.

A Small Medieval Chest
by John V. Lambert
This chest OR Plans and a gift card to your favorite lumber store would make a great gift to your favorite carpenter. (Site Excerpt) The chest described here is a very traditional "six-board" design. The design makes maximum use of materials and requires a minimum of cutting. Over the past five years, I build nearly two dozen of these chests and now require about six hours to the construct the chest, not counting the decorative carving. The "half-lap" joints used are copied from a late Eighth-Century Viking tool chest [Nigellus le Haie described the building of that tool chest in the Society for Creative Anachronism Spring AS XXV (1990) Tournaments Illuminated newsletter].

Medieval and Renaissance Games Webpage
by Justin du Coeur
This site has a lot of information on historical games, several of which are even available for computer play. However, my gift suggestion is the replication of one of these games on a portable game board woodburned, drawn on fabric or leather, etc.), along with the pieces in a small drawstring bag, and the rules. What a great gift!

Medieval Cookery: Pynade (Medieval Candy)
by Daniel Myers
While the ingredients and the recipe might make a nice gift, they don't have a lot of bling value. My suggestion is to make a batch, for giving, along with the recipe. In a decorative tin, and/or with each piece wrapped in holiday cellophane, this is sure to be a big hit.

See also, for the same type of treatment, one of my past Links lists: Sweet! Medieval Candy, Cookies, and Cakes. Some of these would make great "jar" gifts (layer the dry ingredients in a mason jar. Screw on the lid, add a decorate sticker or fabric cap. Tie the recipe to the jar (recipe includes needed wet ingredients and instructions to complete the recipe). Instant gift!

White Wine and Clarrey--the Debatable Brewer's Guild
My gift suggestion is to make the Clarrey to give as a gift, begining with bottled wine since we don't have a lot of time left between now and The Big Day. OR, start with bottled white wine and make a musling mulling bag for the other ingredients. Give the assembled ingredients, along with appropriate decorative bottles, labels, etc. and the recipe, as a gift.(Site Excerpt) We decided to treat some of our wine in the way described by Master Corwin in Scum #23 [Corwin]. We made two batches of a slight variation on "The Peoples Choice Clarrey"; the variation was mostly due to lacking a few of the spices Corwin used. The first batch was a one-gallon size, made with the above wine. The second was a 3/4-gallon size, made with Livingston Cellars brand Chablis Blanc wine.

For the martially-inclined on your list...
This last idea is not an individual link, but is perfect for the martially inclined. It works for heavy weapons, fencers, youth combat, and archers or thrown weapons as well. Perhaps even Equestrian. It's a tourney-in-a-box. There could be several types--and everyone who participates in tourney and contest of any description has an great idea for a contest they've always wanted to try. For all of them you will need basic hardware such as list ropes with pennons for fighters, or ribboned rings for jousting . You will need prizes (scrolls, trinkets, etc.). You'll need a box. Targets if these are archers or thrown weapons participants. You'll need the promise of help from others (in secret!) such as marshalls and a List Minster. You'll need an event to hold the tourney at, in honor and praise of your loved one. And, you'll need the rules and special equipment. Put the box with all this information and whatever special equipment is needed (like targets or a crest for your sweetie) under the tree. Watch in amazement as your loved one discovers how much everyone loves him/her. Archers and thrown weapons have a lot of fun with various historical or whacky themes for their contests, and that can be your inspiration. Here are some ideas for heavies, youth and fencers:

Crest Tourney: see
12th century William Marshall Tournament:
Chronique has several historical styles including Pas d'Arms:
A Questionof Style: The Historical Tournament