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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Doing school, old-school

Theo found some crow feathers in the yard. Not an unusual thing. He asked about quill pens. And, being the geeky homeschooling mom that I am, I decided that We Can Do This.

First step: find out exactly how to cut a quill. I found a tute here and there online, but nothing as detailed and charming and informative as this "English Heritage" video. Love it. So, armed with a penknife (get it--PEN KNIFE--how did I never see *that* connection before?), I did my best novice job at cutting a tip onto the feathers. (Despite her advice, I did leave the barbs on. We decided it looked cooler, and we didn't think they particularly got in the way.)

What next? Ink! Well, according to the lady in the video, one can make ink from oak galls. So noted, and to be tried at some point in the future. But we wanted instant gratification instead of a long and potentially fruitless search, so we went instead with poke berries. Plentiful, ripe, and easy.

And then--writing!
I found it difficult to use at first. Calligraphy exists for a good reason--a classic quill only makes nice easy marks on the downstroke. Trying to draw the pen tip sideways makes a horrid scratching noise and uneven ink distribution. Downstroke, downstroke, downstroke. After a while of practicing, I was able to produce a relatively unembarrassing "Christopher" (Cayden's middle name), but alas--did not get a photo before the paper got rootbeer spilled on it. LOL

Theo's masterpiece:

Part of me wants to go full-out geek and make linen paper (and the oak-gall ink) and really authentic it up. But the kids were happy enough with this, and we all learned quite a bit and really enjoyed the experience.


  1. Cool. I'm a geek like that too.

    My Theo found a feather on our walk a couple days ago and my first thought was, "We could make a quill out of that."

    But the feather was too small. I need to ask my neighbor for some good goose or turkey feathers.

  2. what fun! I might have to try that sometime- guess I am a geek too!

  3. What fun. I loved playing with poke berries as a kid, we smashed them and squished them. But I never knew that they are quite poisonous until I saw them on a poster of deadly plants at the vet's office.