Friday, 30 September 2011

Oh Glory of Modern Technology (again).

It has taken me a full day, lots of reading of hints and how-tos and quite a few misunderstandings and "smash forehead against keyboard to continue" - but it seems I have now managed to get the shop website bilingual.

Don't do the happy dance yet, though - there's not all the translated data put into the shop system yet, so if you go there now, you will find a warning that it may not be fully functional (though I hope it will function) and quite a few entries of wares with no text at all in the English version.

And since I ran out of time before packing up for Tannenberg, this will stay like this until middle of next week or so - when I will be back and do things with it again.

There you go. One English webshop, coming right up. Soon-ish.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Off to Tannenberg.

I can be found at Tannenberg this weekend - we will be going there and setting up today, and stay for the full long weekend.

I can be found on the meadow where I will have my little stall with nice goods for sale - plus a very special new something: a wool preparation station, where you can learn how to process wool with combs or cards and use my tools for that. I am also thinking about offering mini-workshops to learn (or improve) historical handspinning techniques, announced via a blackboard at my stall.

If you are in the area, I hope you will drop by!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Oh Glory of Modern Technology.

I have the texts for the English webshop. I basically know how to implement it. I have made a backup of the site for some upgrades necessary for it.

However, I do not have unlimited amounts of time - since we're leaving for Tannenberg tomorrow, and there's a handsome list of things to take care of before that. So I will not promise that the webshop will be up in English today... I'll give it a try, though.

And now for something completely different:
There is a job offer up on H-Soz-U-Kult for a half-time employment - about Living History and its roles and possibilities, among other things. If you are interested, you can find the full job offer here (German language). I think it's a good sign that Living History is now getting its own, proper research!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I have joined...

I've been on Facebook and LinkedIn and Xing for quite some time now, and yesterday I finally joined I'm not sure anymore why I did not go there and sign up when I first heard about it, but probably I was intending to wait and see whether it would take off or not. And then I sort of forgot about it.

So I'm very glad a colleague on the weekend nudged me to go there again and sign up. The idea behind it really is brilliant - a place where you can put up links to your work, copies of your articles, your academical CV - and at the same time see what others do and follow their work. It feels like a mix between Facebook and Google Scholar for me.

I can be found here on - care to join me?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Now for the short week.

I'm back from having a brilliant time in Mainz at the RGZM - wonderful weather (we all hung out in T-Shirts), delicious food, delightful colleagues, and plenty of time to chat and demonstrate things to colleagues and visitors alike.

Speaking of delicious food - a colleague of mine is giving a one-day course in medieval cookery on October 15 in Bad Windsheim. You can read more about the course on his blog, where you will also find instructions on how to sign up.

And now it's time for me to relax a little and sort my things, since we are leaving for the next event on Thursday already.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Tomorrow in Mainz!

It's time again to pack up the car and spend some quality driving time on the wonderful A3 for me today. I am scheduled to be in Mainz tomorrow and on Sunday, for the portrait of Experimental Archaeology (linked page is German). On Sunday, the museum has a family day as well, and there is a special exhibition about medieval northern Nigeria (German page behind link).

If that package cannot tempt you to come see me, my colleagues and the museum this weekend...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

If you can imagine it... chances are high that the Internet has it.

I have just found out that there is a research magazine for graduate students - first issue came out in April 2011, and they are now looking for more submissions.

The magazine is called Chronika, is based at the University of Buffalo and aims to give grad students a place to publish. They are welcoming papers from all the US, submission can be made online.

If you want to check it out, go on to the Chronika page; they have a parent organisation called IEMA (Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology) that you can find here.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Hang on - it won't be long now.

For all those of you who are still waiting for the shop to come up in English: Work on that is in progress. I'm sorry that you have to wait so long, but I'm doing my best to juggle all the projects and bookings and preparation work and behind-the-scenes stuff that I have to do as well.

I hope to have the English version up and running some time next week, unless unforeseen mishaps and stuff happen. The basics have to be set up to let the shop go bilingual, which requires some updates, but it's mostly the texts and some test runs lacking.

I know that it's totally annoying to wait for something to happen, and that something takes ages and ages due to no discernible reasons at all - and I am really sorry that I have become one of those folks who let others wait and wait. But it's just not always possible to do everything at once, or even in a timely fashion. There's a lot of things that clamour for attention, and that cause shifting priorities again and again, leading to some things being postponed. Since I have experienced this on myself, I have gained a whole new level of appreciation for things happening fast, or soon. And if you have done your own website hacking and script-tuning and text-translating... you will probably know that it can be obnoxiously tricky and very much disinclined to going smoothly.

Well. All this was just supposed to let you know that I have not forgotten you who cannot use the German shop, and that it will be up in English.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

There's more building!

You will probably all know, or at least have heard of, the project in Guedelon, where a medieval castle is being re-built using materials and methods available in the 13th century.

Guedelon does seem to be a success, at least in terms of being well-known and visited. And now something similar-but-different is planned in Germany, called "Karolingische Klosterstadt" (Carolingian monastic city).

The project is to re-build the famous plan of St. Gallen, the idealistic layout and plan for a monastery. There's an official project website that does not offer very much yet, but there's one English pdf presenting the project idea - and some very interesting thoughts about how interpreters should be trained.

Monday, 19 September 2011


I have started this nice little project that is supposed to serve as a market stall sign one day. Wel, scratch the "little" - it's quite big. And I have only just started...

... embroidering.

I will keep you updated on progress - at the moment, basic maths say that I can do about 5 cm² in about ten to fifteen minutes. And I have not yet tried to calculate how long the full piece will take at that rate - but it will take a really amazing amount of time.

Friday, 16 September 2011


A few years ago, when I was sharing office space with physicists (a long and wonderful story), there was a website up on the Internet under something like ""*.

When you went on that website, there was either a black window with a red "No" or a black window with a green "Yes" on it. That was it. Nothing more - and still we'd have a lot of fun checking if it was Friday yet.

Then, after a while, the site was no more. But after another while... there is a similar page now again.
Not as black as the first one... but just as delightfully simple, and nonsensical, and nice to look up for that Thank-God-It's-Friday moment. Provided it's Friday, of course.

So... is it Friday yet?

* I don't remember if it was org, or net, or whatever. And since that page is dead and gone, I do not care, and nor should you.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Something new once in a while...

I have, for the first time in my life, joined a writing group. I was never a part of a study group, and I have never been part of a writing group if you don't count the collaboration things on papers and suchlike, and it's a new and somehow exciting experience.

And it already did work as in "helped me to tackle some part of DustyOldBookproject that I had been procrastinating on for far too long. Alas, I have not yet managed to write all of it, and I will probably not do so until the next check-in on Friday, because I have found that I need to do some more research on one bit of it that I found I needed to include while writing it. So all as usual.

I also found out, during all that reading and writing and picking up other bits and pieces for the same project that there is virtually nothing on the subject of medieval hair and hairstyles. Yes, there are popular science articles and "overview books" about hairstyles since the beginning of mankind to today, but they are about as useful for reconstructing possible hairdos of the Middle Ages as a costume history overview book is for reconstructing individual dresses. And then there are various "papers" of dubious quality that do not help at all (and are usually not about medieval times anyways) - and finally there's some writings that are so heavily into mysticism and symbolism and psychological stuff that may or may not have been connected to hair in the Middle Ages that they are totally non-useful for any practical aspects as well.

Which means that there is actually another field of study that has even less, source-wise, for reconstructing possible historical reality than garments. Gah.

Of course my secret hope is that you, oh readers, will now prove me totally wrong and tell me that there is this list of brilliant books about medieval haircare and medieval hairdos out there that I was totally too stupid to find.

I'm hoping very much, in this case, that I was totally too stupid to find it.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Yet Another Conference!

Snooping around on the message boards of, I found info about a conference on European Painted Cloths C14th-C21st (London, 15-16 Jun 2012).

The deadlines for the call for papers are already gone by, but the conference itself might be of interest. At the very least, it's a topic not encountered so very often, and I'm happy to see it gets looked at a bit more!

European Painted Cloths C14th-C21st
Pageantry, Ceremony, Theatre and the Domestic Interior

This two day conference will explore the use of painted cloths in religious ceremony, pageantry, domestic interiors and scenic art. It will focus on their change of context and significance from the
fourteenth to the twenty-first century exploring their different function, materials, and method of creation.

The potential for large sizes, portability, and versatility for religious objects including banners, hangings, altarpieces, and palls was the impetus for the emergence of fabrics as a painting support in Western art in the Middle Ages. The demand for elaborate altarpieces, church furnishings, and liturgical objects increased in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries due to changes to liturgical practice and an upsurge of religious fervour. The functionality of the works explains the survival of relatively few examples. Were paintings on fabric envisaged as ephemeral objects? There is evidence to the contrary. One of the most common forms of interior decoration for centuries, painted cloths have received less attention from art historians and historians than they deserve in part due to their poor survival. Often regarded as cheap substitutes for those who could not afford tapestries, their function has been oversimplified and their importance in  providing imagery as well as literary subjects has been underrated.

Scenic backcloths were once commissioned for court functions, part of an elaborate display of royal power and magnificence, such as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The same methods and materials continued to be used for theatrical cloths. The nineteenth and twentieth century saw a
resurgence in interest in the art form, as established artists, among them Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Picasso and later Piper, Hockney and Caulfield, took up commissions for the theatre and ballet.

The conference, to be held at The Courtauld Institute of Art, will be run in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum. Presentations by four keynote speakers will reflect the aim of the conference to bring together and foster interdisciplinary research between art and interiors historians, paintings and textile conservators.
Organised by Christina Young (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and
Nicola Costaras (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

14th century Bergen has become virtual reality!

There has been a project resulting in the virtual reconstruction of 1350 Bergen in Norway. If you can read Norwegian, you might be interested in the official accompanying page here. There's even a .pdf on that page about the basis for the reconstruction - brilliant!
If you don't read Norwegian (or don't feel like it) and only want to see the film, you can do it right here:

(or follow it over to its home on youtube, where you can watch it in much bigger).

Monday, 12 September 2011

Where to find me.

If you are looking to meet me for a chat (or because you are desperate to buy me a coffee), I can be found at the following places in the near future:

Tannenberg, the traditional end-of-season market, September 30 to October 3. I will be having a stall there and sell my usual stock of goods - plus if you would like to try prepping wool for historical spinning yourself, I will offer you the opportunity to "rent-a-wool-tool" at my stall.

Family day at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz, September 25 - I will be demonstrating wool processing and spinning with distaff and hand-spindle. If you dare, you can try spinning yourself as well!

The Embroidery Workshop - I will be teaching medieval embroidery in Erlangen on the 29th of October (counted work) and the 30th of October (split stitch and diverse laid-and-couched techniques). Booking can be done via the webshop (look under "Kurse").

Medieval Dress and Textiles Society Autumn meeting, October 22, in London - I will be speaking in the afternoon there.

If you are in the area, why not drop by?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Getting into the mood.

I'm getting into the mood for the embroidery course in October.

If by "getting into the mood" you understand "starting some insanely large project because I'm so much looking forward to the course because I'm sure it will be an insane amount of fun and I can't wait for it so I'm starting this now", that is. And yes, there will be pictures as soon as I deem a bit of it picture-worthy.

And I am having fun with it. I have decided on a stitch to use that I totally love, it's wonderful material, it's relatively fast to work. And it means I get to practise my mean material-calculation skillzz again.

And yes, calculating how much material you will need will definitely be part of the workshop. Also, for those who are interested in it, how much time you will probably need.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Archaeology pics and sexual insults.

Since there's not much to tell you about from my desk here, except that I'm busy doing all kinds of stunningly exciting things like my bookkeeping (argh!) and ordering an obscenely long list of books into the library from the archives, here are a few links to amuse you. And me, since I get to do some internet surfing first so I can find them.

Nice pictures from an archaeological dig, with German texts (old city fortification structures were found, for those who don't read German) can be found at the Schauhütte blog.

You can also surf to highly's place and learn how to insult a man who has turned down your advances (if you are a woman, that is) in late 12th-century French. Ah, time-honoured tradition of getting personal.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Call for Papers - Interpreting History through Costume

The Costume Society of America is holding their Western Region 2012 Symposium “Interpreting History through Costume”on March 17-18, 2012 at The William S. Hart Ranch & Museum in Santa Clarita, CA.

Their call for papers is still open until October 15. Here's the short of it:

The Western Region Symposium offers an opportunity for established Members and potential New Members to present Oral Research Papers or Research-in Progress, reports on unpublished research, new creations and/or practical experience.
Possible Topics Include: Designing costume for period theatrical or dance performances, films or television shows; Comparisons between recreated garments, or garments designed for performance, with actual historic garments; The importance of costume in the understanding of social, political & world history; How costumed docents enhance the understanding of museum collections & the visitor experience; Use of costume in non-costume exhibitions: an opportunity to provide context; Pursuit of the past: the impulse to collect historic dress; Using dress to create an historic character or personage for reenactment.

They welcome about everybody - so if that sounds interesting to you, check out the full call for papers on this website.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

More Spinning Questions

paantha said...
I have learnt to spin with a wheel and a drop spindle but I haven't yet got the hang of medieval-style spinning and I can't make my distaff work. :(
However, I do have one piece of advice for you, which holds true for all craft/textile teaching (and probably a few other things too). If you need to teach a left-handed person when you are right-handed (or vice versa) sit them opposite you and make them copy you as if you are mirror images of each other. My neighbour who taught me to spin was very careful to do this when teaching me to knit and crochet, so I do those right-handed (like I write). However, I just noticed that I spin left-handed, despite being right-handed, because we forgot to implement that when she taught me spinning...
Thanks for the hint about handedness - but I think that handedness might not apply to spinning that much. I am left-handed and very severely so, but I spin with my distaff under the left arm, and my right hand as drafting/turning spindle hand. And I did not really learn from someone, so it was all my idea to do it this way around.
That said, when teaching, I do tell people they should experiment which hand they prefer for drafting more actively.

Karen said...
I love spinning with a distaff. I have a long one which I generally use when drafting with a short draw, and a hand held one, that I am just getting good at using, that I use when drafting with a long draw. The biggest problem I had when learning to use my distaffs was keeping a consistant draft. My first spindle-full on each was very uneven. But it just took practice. I worried more about being comfortable holding the distaff than what my thread looked like, and very quickly my thread improved. I hate to spin without one now.

Good luck with your workshop.

Thanks Karen! Yes, I think adapting to the distaff can be confusing at first, but good to hear that you are also addicted to them now!

Arachne said...
I'm still struggling with the distaff, I've tried both long ones and hand-held ones. My biggest problem is spinning with really long fibres (+ 20 cm) but it happens with shorter wool too: everything's fine in the beginning, but after a bit the fibres become wound so tightly round the distaff that I can't draw at all. I've tried arranging the wool as if it were flax on the distaff rather than wrapping the combed tops around it, but it still ended up a bunched-up mess after a while. Haven't given up yet, though...

Have you tried winding them off a bit more from time to time? I usually have quite a longish bit of the fibre band hanging down from my distaff, and the longer the fibres, the longer this free-hanging bit. As soon as it shortens enough to let fibres come from very near the distaff stick, I roll it a little so more of the fibre band unwraps and hangs freely down. So maybe if you try to leave more space between your hands and the distaff, it might help. And don't give up!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Spinning with a Distaff

Thanks again for all you input on the headwear thread - and for the replies to the Spinning thread. I'll tackle the first two now.

fiofiorina said...
I use a hand distaff when spinning "Roman" and a long one for medieval displays. I still sling the thread under the whorl, as it made the difference between whorl falling to the ground and breaking and spindle falling to the ground and whorl surviving. For modern spinning I prefer working with the short Roman distaff than holding the wool in my hand. But that's me.  
I have had better experience with the whorl not breaking if it was not firmly attached to the spindle, since it can then slide off the spindle when it drops - the stick takes most of the impact, and the whorl survives. But if the spindle drops, there's always some danger of the whorl taking damage, whether firmly attached to the stick or able to slip loose. Key with spinning with a whorl only slid onto the stick is to make sure it really sits firmly enough so it does not just slip off and fall down from the stick during spinning. (Though mine have done so frequently, too, and they did survive.)

Lady Lamb said...
I learn to spin for myself with the help of some books and YouTube. I don't need to pass the thread under the whorl, and in case it helps you can make a small opening at the tip of the spindle. At events I try to use a distaff but this is my problem. I'm not used to it. I try to support it on my belt so it won't fall and my left hand it's free to grab the fibers, but sometimes I find that difficult. Another problem is that with a distaff I have some tendency to break the fibers. I don't know if you can give me some tip, or maybe I just need to get used to the distaff.
You have several different possibilities to use a distaff - hand-held if you use a short stick, tucked into the belt if you have a long one, or tucked under your arm. Have you tried to place the distaff in your armpit? If you let your arm hang down, it should fix the distaff firmly in place.
If all this does not work, or if you feel too distracted by learning how to hold the distaff and learning how to draft with the new arrangement, you could also fix it to something else and stand or sit beside or in front of it until you are used to the new method.
If you have a tendency to break the fibres, maybe you are drafting too slowly with the new arrangement?

Friday, 2 September 2011

From Headwear questions to Spinning questions.

First of all, thanks to everybody who commented with links or hints to medieval headwear on yesterday's post. I will go hunt all those things down and have a good look at them. And if anybody thinks of any more, please comment to yesterday's bleg - it really is helping me!

And today's post... is going to be something similar-but-different. I am preparing a workshop on historical wool preparation and historical spinning, and I'm very, very much looking forward to it. However, I have been mucking around with this and that and fibres and spindles for a good long while now, and my spinning skill was never acquired in the traditional teacher-to-student manner. Thus, I have learned many things differently. And I do not have good insights into what makes a switch to historical spinning difficult for somebody who has learned hand-spindle spinning the modern way. (If you need to brush up on the difference, the two most important bits in my opinion are that historical spinning uses a distaff for holding the fibres, and there's no slinging the thread around under the whorl before fixing it at the top. There's more, but those are two very common differences.)

Hence, I will make you an offer. Are you spinning with a hand-spindle? Have you tried spinning historically? Whether you are spinning historical or modern, I would like to hear about what problems or questions you have. Is there something you just can't get to work? Or something you wanted to try but cannot figure out?

I will try to answer your questions here in the blog - and use the material for my teaching. This way, everybody wins: I get to know common problems, and you will get an answer. And I will try my best to make it a helpful one!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Do you know of any... headwear?

After writing my PhD thesis (which will come out one day in English, I have not forgotten you - I am doing things towards it) I was quite happy to get going on some other writing/research topic. Unfortunately, though, that project fizzled out very soon in its career.

Then all those other things that will assault a freelancer and beg for time took over. Organising or re-organising things, getting smart about how to do invoices, keeping track of finances, sourcing goods that I could sell on markets, preparing workshops, flyers, business cards and so on. The decision to do a blog, and the time that went into it. Projects usually came (and still come) in clumps as well, tearing huge rifts into plans and schedules. And Textile Forum came into my life and took over for a few weeks each year (and will do so next year). In short, I did not get around to do much writing and research for the other book project that was still in my figurative desk drawer. And I sort of fell into a research hole.

Then came the opportunity to work again on that project. Let's call it... Dusty Old Bookproject, or DOB for short. I started, did some stuff, and ran against a wall because what I had thought would be a slight restructure and extension... was not. It needed a full re-thinking, re-working and re-structuring, and I could not see that yet. So I did some things on and off, but it really didn't come along very well. And there was still all the other freelancing stuff to be taken care of, which takes a huge chunk of time, continuously.

Then along came Exciting New (to me) Bookproject, and I suddenly rediscovered that research is such a huge heap of fun. Pure unadulterated fun in sitting in the library, going through books, taking up snippets of information and learning new things, new angles, new concepts. So now I am working on both of them, DOB and ENB, and instead of having a bad conscience... I feel good, because I am actually doing more work on DOB now than I did before ENB came along.

And I'm at a stage for DOB where I am looking for more material. More specifically, I am searching for links or books or hints on where some more extant headwear might be found. Date range is from about 500 to 1500, though I might narrow that down for the final book. Geographic range is Europe. And I'd be delighted if you could tell me of some, because just like the proverb says: Four (hundred) eyes see (much) better than two.