Posts Tagged tutorial

The Good German Armor Stand: How to Make a Portable, Folding Wood Armor Stand in Less Than Three Hours

22 July 2015

ArmorStandTitleAt our first Pennsic four years ago, we attempted our first armor stand. It was a bunch of 2x4s screwed into the semblance of an armor stand on site. Sadly, it couldn’t hold the full plate armor Gregor had brought with him and it had a tendency to fall over.

The next year at Pennsic, Gregor noticed Baron Jasen Irenfest’s gorgeous (and functional) armor stand and asked how he made it. It turns out Jasen’s armor stand was based on a 1990 article that appeared in Tournament Illuminated, “A Barbarian Armor Stand,” by Sir Timoch of Nordhem. So, armed with the plans and materials, we set out to make a Barbarian Armor Stand. We found Sir Timoch’s general design to be good, but made our own improvements to key design details, as well as corrected the material list and modified some instructions. We updated the original plans to our liking and present them here with steps and photos. Many thanks to Sir Timoch, wherever he may be, for the original idea!

Notes: These plans will produce a custom armor stand that will fold down for easy transport. It can be setup inside or outside, and optional stakes can be inserted in the base when used outside for windy conditions. The stand will support most parts of your armor, and, so far, is quite sturdy and stable. We’ve used the armor stand at Pennsic for two years, as well as at various events around the Middle Kingdom. It’s continuing to work great!


Armor Stand Materials:

  • Three 8-foot-long 2″x4″ lumber (currently $3.57 a piece from Lowes)
  • Eight 3-inch-long hinges (currently $2.17 per hinge from Lowes)
  • One bolt 3/8” x 31/2” long
  • One 3/8” wingnut (make sure it can screw onto the above bolt)
  • Two 3/8” x 11/2” washers (make sure hole is big enough to go over the neck of the bolt)
  • Eighteen 8d nails or 2 1/2″ wood screws
  • One small bottle of wood glue
  • One 18″ length of string
  • Optional: small cans of wood stain and polyurethane

Armor Stand Tools:

  • Hand saw or other cutting device like a mitre saw or jigsaw
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • 1/2” bit
  • 11/2” spade bit
  • Screwdriver
  • Measuring device (tape measure or yard stick)
  • Pencil
  • Gummy bears (okay, those are optional, but yummy!)

Armor Stand Instructions:

Step 1. Take the measurements of the person whose armor will hang on the stand. You need three measurements:

  • Crown to crotch
  • Hip to hip
  • Shoulder to shoulder

Step 2. Cut your 2x4s down to the following dimensions:

  • Cut one (1) at 28″ long (A)
  • Cut one (1) at 22″ long (B)
  • Cut two (2) at 23/4” long (C)
  • Cut two (2) at 36″ long (D)
  • Cut one (1) of your crown to crotch measurement, or 36″, whichever is shorter (E)
  • Cut two (2) of your hip-to-hip measurement less 1″ and then divided by 2 (we cut 2 at 6″ long) (F)
  • Cut two (2) of your shoulder-to-shoulder measurement less 1″ and then divided by 2 (we cut 2 at 9″ long) (G)
  • Cut two (2) joint boards at 8″ long (H)


Tip: If you intend to sand, stain, and/seal your armor stand, you may wish to do this now before you begin assembling it. It will be easier and the finished stand will look better if you complete sanding, staining, and/or sealing before assembly.

Good German Option: We recently bought a table saw with the ability to do angled cuts, so when Gregor made a second version of this armor stand recently he made fancy beveled edges. It looks sweet. If you want to do this, do it now, before assembly!


Step 3. Take board A, find the exact center of the board lengthwise, and drill a hole all the way through the board using the 1/2″ bit. On one side of this board, use the 11/2” spade bit to create a recess about 3/4” deep around the hole you just drilled. (This will accommodate your washer and wing nut.)


Step 4. Take board B, find the exact center of the board lengthwise, and drill a hole all the way through the board using the 1/2″ bit. On one side of this board, use the 11/2” spade bit to create a shallow recess (deep enough to accommodate your bolt tip and the other washer) around the hole you just drilled.


Step 5. Attach board A to board B using the bolt, washers, and wingnut. Note: You can choose to put the bolt downward or upward through the holes — what’s important is that hardware be recessed into the bottom of board B so that it can sit flat on the ground.


Bolt recessed into the bottom of board B.


Top of board A, with bolt and wingnut accessible.

Step 6. Apply wood glue to the underside of the two C boards and attach them to the ends of the A board, making sure that you can swivel and rotate the attached B board without hitting the C boards. Clamp and nail (or screw) C to A. These are now the feet of your armor stand.



Step 7: Attach a hinge between the end of board A and the end of one of your D boards. You’ll want to position the plates so that the hinge itself sits just beyond the edge of the boards — this allows you to fold it more compactly.


Step 8: Remove the pin from another hinge (insert a nail into the bottom hole of the hinge and hammer it down a bit to release the pin). Put the pin back into the hinge loosely, then repeat step 7 by attaching the hinge between the other end of board A and the second board D.


Removing the hinge pin


Hinge with pin removed

Step 9: Remove the pin again from the same hinge as in step 7 and tie a piece of string around the pin, then attach the string to board A. This ensures you never loose that pin. Re-insert the pin for now and set this assembly aside.

Step 10: Now that you have the base and two legs assembled, lay them flat on the ground and place board E (the torso board) in between at the top, flanked on either side by the H boards (joint boards). Lay them in a position relative to the legs as though it were all set up. Do not mount or attach hinges to boards E or H yet, but check their placement to insure no other screws will block the pre-drilled holes in the hinge plates. Now mark on the H joint boards the appropriate angle where the legs meet the H boards. A typical angle is 24°, but yours may vary if you significantly changed the measurements of your boards or with the placement of your hinges.

IMG_7059 IMG_7060 IMG_7061

Step 11: Cut the joint boards (H) at the angle you determined in step 10 and attach them to the bottom of board (E).


Step 12: Attach the hinges to the joint boards (H). Make sure that when everything comes together that it fits snugly — if it is too loose, your armor stand will have a tendency to sway. Do not yet attach the other side of those hinges to your leg boards — it’ll be easier if you do that at the end.


Step 13: Attach the hinges between the hip boards (F) and the torso board (E), making sure to test fit them first. Leave about a 1/4″ between the F hip board and the H joint board, allowing the F board to fold down without being obstructed.


Step 14: Attach the hinges between the shoulder boards (G) and the torso board (E).


Step 15: Now finally attach the hinges at the joint boards (H) to the leg boards (E).


Step 16: Fold down your armor stand to make sure it folds neatly. If the bolt gets in the way of folding, as shown in the photo below, you may wish to drill a small recess in one of the leg boards so it folds flatter.

IMG_7089  IMG_7091


Voila! You have an armor stand.


Gregor’s armor stand made in 2012


The armor stand Gregor made for Baron Ermenrich in 2015

Optional: Consider putting holes in the baseboards so you can stake it to the ground in windy weather. You may also want to add holes in the hip boards or shoulder boards if you have things you need to need to hang from your stand.

If you have questions, please let us know! The armor stand will be on display, along with handouts on how to make it, at Gregor’s “Enhance Your Camp” class on Thursday, July 30 at 4:00-5:00 pm, located in Camp Cynnabar (W02). Here’s the actual class description:

“Join us at our camp to learn about how to make personal camp improvements that can enhance both its appearance as well as your own quality of life. Most projects are made from wood with basic tools and do not require special knowledge, skills, or equipment. Handouts will be available for each camp project ($1/handout), including our camp cart, kitchen worktable, sink with foot pump, trestle table, benches, chairs, clothes rack, armor stand, canvas organizer, and more.”

SCA Artisan Love: THL Helena Sibylla (+ Cloth Button Tutorial)

23 April 2015

[This is the eighth in a series of articles on SCA artisans who inspire, teach, encourage, and/or make the Society a better place for us all! I learned so much through other artisans while preparing for the A&S Pentathlon, and now it is my turn to shine the love on them, learn more about their craft, and introduce them to you.]


The infamous gingerbread


It all begins with gingerbread. I met Helena almost exactly four years ago at the first SCA event I attended after my return to the SCA. Well, at least I know she was there, because honestly the whole event was a bit of a blur for me. The reason I know she was there was because the Baroness of Cynnabar — whom I had also just met — enthused at great length about some amazing “documentably period” gingerbread that Helena had entered in the Arts & Sciences competition and for which she had won a first place. The obvious pride the Baroness displayed for this “Helena” person made me think, “Wow! She must be really talented! I want to do something cool like that one day , too.” It’s the little things that make a big difference.


THL Helena Sibylla does indeed make a big difference, for me and for many others her arts and service touch. Helena’s interests and talents are varied — most already know of her calligraphy and illumination, and many of us have been the recipients of one of her lovely scrolls (including myself—she made my Willow scroll). She also sews, embroiders, weaves (tablet and inkle), and makes clothing for herself and her husband.  She’s also well known for her gorgeous silk banners and her delicious baked treats (gingerbread is just one of the recipes in her book).


One of Helena’s recent tablet-weaving projects

One of the things I enjoy most about Helena’s art is just how much she makes things for other people. She’s currently working on embroidering the Pennsic 44 favors (as seen elsewhere on my blog) and has already made six herself. She paints banners for several baronies and creates heraldic patches for the Order of the Rose cloak. She bakes treats and makes largesse and creates all those scrolls. She just generally gives away much of her art. I commend her highly for her generosity and we are all so much better for it!


Just two of the patches Helena has made for the Rose Cloak

She’s learned much of what she knows because of her participation in the SCA over the past ten years. A basic calligraphy class was one of her first SCA classes ever! And although she’s been cooking and doing embroidery since she was young, she’s learned much more about historical cooking and embroidery techniques because of the SCA. She’s driven to do and make things. When I asked what inspired her, she said, “I like to have something to keep my hands and mind busy and I like to have project goals to work toward. I really enjoy learning about the history of the crafts, objects, and techniques.  I like the process of making things and the satisfaction that comes from challenging myself to learn something new and completing a project!”


Helena’s 14th century embroidered pouch

Helena has created many wonderful artifacts, so when I asked her to choose her favorite, it was a tough question to answer. Eventually she settled on her 14th century embroidered pouch she made for the Arts & Sciences Competition in A.S. 46 (2012).  She explained, “This was my first entirely hand-sewn item and I’m really satisfied with the way it turned out.” I remember this pouch well, as it was in the same competition in which I entered my first two entries and I was quite in awe of it.
She is no stranger to the A&S competitions, having entered and received excellent scores several times. Of late, she has been judging more often than entering, but I have hopes she will take on the challenge of a Pentathlon in the coming years. And it should come as no surprise to hear that Helena has been honored as the Barony of Andelcrag’s Baronial Arts and Sciences Champion. She is also a member of the Order of the Evergreen.
While Helena is not apprenticed to a Laurel, she is a protége to Master Straum von Bairzog — he and his lady, Baroness Ute von Munchen, are well aware of her varied interests in the Arts & Sciences. In the Quest she received from Master Straum, she has been charged with learning a new skill and teaching it to others. I’m looking forward to what she might be able to teach us next! Be sure to keep an eye on her blog,, for news on her upcoming projects. This is also where you’ll find many photos and reports on past projects, including the recipe for the infamous gingerbread.
Helena will be teaching her Introduction to Brick Stitch Embroidery class at Andelcrag Althing this weekend.  She will also likely be teaching at least one class at Pennsic this year, probably the Self-Stuffed Button-Making class. If you can’t make it to her Pennsic class, however, she’s kindly provided us with a tutorial on how to make these historically accurate buttons!


Helena’s Self-Stuffed Cloth Button Tutorial

The steps for making a self-stuffed cloth button are simple, but the process does require some dexterity.  You should be able to do some very basic hand sewing with needle and thread.

Step 1 – Cut Fabric Circles. You will need to experiment with the fabric you want to use to see what size circles are needed to make the finished size button you want.  Thinner fabrics will crush more and require a larger circle to make a bigger button, while heavier fabrics like wool or corduroy will crush less so you can start with a smaller circle.  Use whatever you like to make circles the right size.

Step 2 – Stitch Around. With a needle and thread, make a running stitch around the circle of fabric  about one-third of the way in from the edge.  Use a thread heavier than regular sewing thread – you want something that won’t break when you pull firmly. There are several varieties of heavyweight or button thread available.  The Gutermann brand makes a heavyweight thread that comes in a wide variety of colors so you can coordinate with your fabric.  Finish so that the needle is on what will be the right side of the fabric.

Step 3 – Draw It Up. Use the thread to pull in the edges of the circle – make a little drawstring hat for your finger! Pull carefully so you don’t drag the knot through the fabric as you go. Work the fabric around as you’re pulling so the gathers are roughly even. This doesn’t have to be perfect – you’ll be able to even things out in a later step.

Step 4 – Tuck It In. Flip the gathered circle over, keeping slight tension on the thread so the gathering doesn’t come undone. Pull gently on the thread and at the same time, start tucking the raw edges of the circle into the gathered center, working all the way around as you go. This is what creates the stuffing for the button. As you work, keep tension on the thread to help the edges stay tucked. Keep tucking until all the raw edges are pushed into the center of the stitching.

Step 5 – Pull It Together. Once you have all the edges tucked in, gently pull the thread tightly to draw the button closed.

Step 6 – Stitch It Up. Now is your chance to lock everything together and adjust the shape of the button. With the gathered side of the button up, push the needle through from one side to the other and draw it tight. Do this at intervals around the button, keeping close to the bottom, gathered edge.

As you stitch, the button will pull together more tightly and become firmer.

Step 7 – Shape Up! Flip the button over and check the shape. If it’s not quite as round as you would like or if there’s a little bit sticking out oddly, it can be adjusted. Here you can see my needle pointing at a funny little bulge on one side of the button.


To fix this, flip the button back over and make a stitch through the area sticking out to pull it in toward the center.


Presto! The odd corner disappears!


Do this anywhere you need to adjust the shape of the button until it’s as round as you like. These stitches will also help make the button more firm and solid to feel

Once the button is the shape you want, draw the thread to the center on the bottom side and knot it. Leave the tail of thread for attaching the button to your garment when it’s ready and your button is done!


Buttons, glorious buttons!


Blackwork Embroidery Primer Booklet: Learn Counted Blackwork in Four Phases!

8 January 2012

Blackwork Embroidery Booklet

I’ve written a 16-page booklet on Blackwork Embroidery for those interested in learning how to do it. The booklet introduces blackwork, offers a brief history, illustrates the two main stitches (double running, or Holbien, and backstitch), and offers hands-on practice in four phases of increasing difficulty with a pattern based on a period design. Included are photos, stitch diagrams, and color-coded patterns. This is the same booklet I handed out during my Blackwork Embroidery class at 12th Night in the Canton of Ealdnordwuda, with a few minor updates based on questions asked during class. The booklet is current available as a PDF file, and I will put it online as a web-based booklet in the future as well.

Click Here to Download My Blackwork Embroidery Booklet

The booklet is completely free, though please note that I am retaining the copyright. The only thing I ask in return is that if you do any of the hands-on activities, and are pleased with your progress, please send me a photo! Any and all feedback is welcome, as are questions!

One of my students at my first blackwork class!

By the way, my Blackwork Embroidery class was a success! The tiny classroom I was in had only 10 chairs, but 13 people showed up and were willing to crowd around the table to learn about blackwork! Everyone managed to complete phases 1 and 2 in the short time we were there (everyone!) and several people started phase 3. I was so happy to see everyone embroidering and making progress. I used a pegboard painted white and black yarn to show how blackwork stitches work on a larger scale, and that seemed to help everyone. I am just hoping someone finishes the project and sends me a photo. In fact, I am going to issue a challenge — anyone who takes one of my blackwork classes (as I will definitely be doing more) and completes their project gets a little reward from me. Just show me your completed blackwork at a future event/class to redeem your reward!

Elizabethan Double Plaited Braid Stitch: A Step-By-Step Tutorial in Photos

30 September 2011

The Elizabethan Double Plaited Braid Stitch is a very lovely, intricate embroidery stitch that was used on coifs, sweet bags (purses), samplers in the 16th century. The braid stitch was usually done in gilt or silver-gilt thread. Examples can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum (see examples: coif, sweet bag, sampler).

I tried for several weeks to master this braid stitch. My early attempts were close, but not quite right. Finally, after just keeping after it for a while, watching videos, studying photos of braid stitches, and scouring the web for ideas and tips, I finally figured it out. Here I present my method of working the Elizabethan double plaited braid stitch:



  • Fabric (I’m using 32-count evenweave linen)
  • Thread (I’m using DMC Gold Metallic)
  • Blunt end needle (you want a blunt-end needle, NOT a sharp, so that the needle does not catch or pierce other threads — I’m using a tapestry needle)
  • Stick pin

Starting the Stitch – Step by Step:

1. First we need to get the stitch started. Thread your needle and mark your fabric with two parallel lines in some fashion, either by stitching it with thread (as I have done with the green in the photo below) or with a water-soluble marking pen. Bring your needle up at point A, as shown below on my fabric (you can click the image to see it larger):


Step 1; Bring Your Needle Up at Point A

If you’re having problems figuring out where each of these points are in your own fabric, here is a simpler chart of points A-F:


Point Chart

Step 2: Go down with your needle at point B, as shown below. Pull taut enough so the thread lies flat. (Sorry for the blurry photo!)

Step 2: Go down at point B.

Step 3: Come up with your needle at point C. Again, pull taut.

Step 3: Come up at point C.

Step 4: Go down with your needle at point D.

Step 4: Go down at point D.

Step 5: Come up with your needle at point B (yes, you’ve already got thread in this hole, but you need to go back in here), as shown:

Step 5: Come up at point B.

Step 6: Go down with your needle at point E. Pull taut.

Step 6: Go down at point E.

Step 7: Come up with your needle at point F. Pull taut. All threads should lie flat, though you don’t want anything TOO tight, as that will make it hard to braid and pucker your fabric.

Step 7: Go down at point F.

Step 8. Now, identify the the TWO crossed threads at the top of your stitch shown in this photo:

Identify your top cross

Now slide your needle under this cross, going under both threads, from bottom to top as shown below:

Step 8: Slide your needle under this cross.

Step 9: Next, identify the the THREE crossed threads at the bottom of your stitch shown in the photo below and slide your needle through. The three threads are the very first one you created in steps 1 and 2 above, the one you made in steps 4 and 5, and the one you just made in step 8. It can be tricky to locate these three threads — you may need to move your threads around a bit with your needle. But it’s important to go under all three threads, or your stitch won’t properly braid.

Step 9: Slide under the three threads at the bottom.

Important Tip: See the straight pin sticking out in the above photo? I put that there, just ahead of my stitching, to keep the loop I create in step 9 large enough for future steps. This was the key for making my braid look good. I highly recommend using a pin when you’re getting started.


The Four Main Stitches – Step by Step

At this point, you’ve started your stitch! Now I will explain the four steps you will do immedately fter this point, over and over, to continue stitching your braid. To differentiate from the above steps, I will use roman numerals. Step X: Bring your needle down at the top left. Keep your needle in place if you’re using one. You should pull taut, though not so tight that you strain your loop.

Step X: Go down at the top left.

Step XI: Come up with your needle at the bottom left, as shown below:

Step XI: Come up at the bottom left.

Step XII: Slide your needle through the THREE crossed threads at the top of your stitch, as shown below. To help you identify these three threads (it can be tricky until you know what to look for), I’ve colored them in the photo below (click to see it larger).

Step XII: Slide your thread under the three top crossed threads

Step XIII: Bring your thread around in a loop to the right and slide your needle up under the THREE cross threads at the bottom. Again, it’s hard to identify before you get practised, and I’ve colored the three threads again. (Note: My photo came out blurry, so I’m showing you two images — one with the threads before the needle goes through, to help you find them, and one with the needle sliding through.) If you’re using a pin to keep your loop in place, you can now move it over to the left in preparation for the new loop you’ll be making in this step.

Identify your three bottom crossed threads

Step XIII: Slide your needle through the bottom three crossed threads

That’s it’. Now you just repeat steps X-XIII until you’re done! This is how it looks after several stitches:

A plaited braid!


  • Different threads will produce different results. The thin thread used here gives a looser looking braid — the metallic thread I’m using is pretty stiff. I like this. A thicker or fluffier thread would fill the braid in more (see photo lower on this page). I have ordered more thread and will experiment with different types! A thicker, yet more flexible, metallic thread would be nice!
  • As you go along, you may notice that your most recent stitches don’t look like the older stitches, but don’t worry. They aren’t being pulled in the same manner because you haven’t braided them yet. As you continue stitching, you’ll see that things fall into place.
  • If you don’t want to use a pin (it can be cumbersome — I like to hold it with the thumb and forefinger of my left hand, under my fabric, as I stitch), you could try using your right thumb to hold it in place and to stitch with your left hand. Or reverse the stitches and go in the other direction if you’re right-handed.
  • If you run out of thread, stop after step X, knot your thread under your fabric, and slide your needle through the stitches in the back, like this:

    Secure your thread underneath

Here is what the stitch looks like when done in a thicker thread:

Plaited braid stitch in thick thread

In the thicker thread, it’s easier to see that the stitch matches the one in this extant coif from the 16th century:

Coif with Gold Braid Stitching

And here is some of my plaited braid stitching on my current project:

Plaited braids on embroidered caul

Web links I found helpful while learning this stitch:

I hope this is helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions!