Friday, 28 February 2014

Things going on here.

Sewing project update: The first buttons are attached to the sleeve of the red dress. I tried to snap a photo this morning, but found that I need either much more light or a tripod and was too lazy to get the latter. It's beautiful, though - the red is an incredibly lovely colour.

There's also a next project lining up for when the current one is finished - including an altar linen, something that is weirdly exciting to do. It's no spectacular work, just a very simple cloth, hemmed and pieced together in the middle, with no embroidery or other special effects, but the altar vestments are such an important part of religious life and thus of medieval culture that it is super-exciting for me to do.

We're also working on finishing up the paper about our dyeing experiments of the last two Textile Forums - one of them is a little late, but I'm (or we) are trying to make up for that with the second one.

For those of you who read German, there's a very interesting article on Archaeologik about how the public (especially that part going on treasure hunts with metal detectors) sees archaeologists. Not nice to read - but important to keep in mind: Sensational stories about treasures shift the impression of the public towards the find, not towards research.

Also in German: the guy behind Tribur is working on reconstructing the carolingian sword-belt-thingie.

Not in German, not medieval, but really cool: Geek Knitting Links and more of the same.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Blogging Archaeology Carnival.

February is always a short month, feeling even shorter due to all kinds of parties going on at our acquaintances - it's a popular birthday month. This year's February, though, feels like the shortest one ever to me, and I can't believe it is almost over already.

Before that is finally the case, I want to at least mention the Blogging Carnival with its February topic: Blogging archaeology. That's it - no proper question this month, which makes it somehow harder for me to tackle. The open February topic is intended to let everyone who would like to write a piece about blogging do so, with the option of getting it published. (With deadlines for those who wanted to submit. Needless to say, they are all past already.)

Writing about blogging archaeology without a proper question is hard for me, as I feel I don't have so much to say on the topic... so I more or less decided after the topic came out that I won't participate properly this month. I don't use the blog to write articles, due to time restrictions and lots of other, non-public-process writing going on (at the moment, three papers and a book are in the pipeline). It might be interesting, though, to write an article in the blog one day - if I can figure out a process to do that. (I should probably check out the reader numbers before and after, though, so I can see how many I scared off!)

For this month, however, I'll more or less pass - it would be nice to have a long piece about how important archaeology is for me, how I enjoy talking archaeological textiles, how I would like to spend much more time researching them... but this month? I don't have the time or energy left for it. There's work to be done. Work that is for a large part a reconstruction attempt, based on archaeological sources, of medieval garments. (I shall finally finish my button-making today - not yet finished because other things snuck in beforehand and I did them first.)

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

More from the hood.

Here are, as promised, the other photos from the finished hood. It's placed with the head opening on my demo head - a popular way of wearing hoods in the late middle ages.

The wool is a lightly fulled tabby, dyed with weld (reseda luteola) and a tiny smidgeon of madder (rubia tinctoria). The seams are running stitches, and the seam allowance is folded to one side and secured/neatened with hem stitches, in some places folded apart and secured to both sides of the seam, also with hem stitches.

The cut is oriented on the hoods found in Herjolfsnaes and London, with a shorter "cape" part than, for instance, the Bocksten find hood.

And also: Gratuitous cat pic.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Spring is coming.

The sun is shining outside, and while it's still cool in the morning, it gets warm soon. How wonderful to sit in the sun with some coffee and some pleasant work, and do things!

Before I get to go sit in the sun, though, there are a few books that want my attention. Tea and computer, thus, for now; coffee and sun and comfy chair and sewing stuff, later.

Also? Meet the newly finished hood, made from plant-dyed wool cloth, sewn with linen thread, cut in 14th century style:

Just a detail for now, since the blog refuses to upload the other pics. But hey, you'll get your gratuitous cat pic tomorrow, then!

Monday, 24 February 2014

I totally needed this.

Back when I was studying, I hung out a lot with folks in German studies - to be precise, with those studying Middle High German. We did a lot of weird and fun things (such as translate modern songs into MHG), and I learned oodles about the old form of German.

I'd acquired a fancy for that old form of German back in school, when we did the obligatory bit about language history and had to learn a poem by good old Walther von der Vogelweide by heart. For someone interested in clothing, the medieval epics are also interesting as a source, since descriptions of garments are quite frequent and can give glimpses on how things were worn, and what the aesthetic ideals were. So I learned MHG until I was passable at understanding it, and was involved in a few things and events of the German studies folks, and attended a few of their seminars.

This also meant that I heard about stuff like concerts, readings, or plays (performed in MHG, of course) - and that was how I came into contact with Eberhard Kummer, who performs those small works like, oh, the Nibelungenlied. Not just some odd bits and pieces of it, mind you - he's done the whole thing. Twice. (At least twice.)

I was in the happy situation to hear, live, a lot of the second full performance (I missed two evenings, and I'm still sad about that). Ever since, I have longed to have a recording of this - last times I tried to find them, none were available. And yesterday, half by chance, I found out that the first performance is actually available as mp3 files, and at a very, very reasonable price.

My copy is currently downloading (30 hours' worth of musical reading do take their time), and I am looking forward to sitting in the sun, sewing, and having the Song to listen to. For those of you who prefer Middle English or Early Modern English (two languages that I am not very good in), The Chaucer Studio has lots of this as well. If you are interested in sung pieces - a performance that will be as close as possible to the original performing of medieval epics - the stuff done by Eberhard Kummer is the thing.

I have to wait only ten more minutes for my download to finish. Praised be the Internet for (almost) instant gratification!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Poor little neglected blog.

Back when I was young and foolish, I thought that making an offer for something was easy and quick.

No. Actually, I did not think about it (and why should I?). I didn't even know the difference between an offer and someone telling you what it would cost, approximately. Then I started my own business, and I learned.

One thing I learned is that the more items you have, and the more variations you have available, the longer it takes - and not only a little bit longer. The time needed increases very much non-linearly. Add to this the need to obtain samples, test techniques, source materials, and find the right suppliers for things... and we're not talking a few hours, but more like weeks until a packet of possibilities is done, finished, and embellished with the appropriate price tag. And there's hours going into all that, plus into the necessary research to clear up details as well.

For now, I've got a big block of offer-related work off my desk, which is also the reason for this late blog post - I was so caught up in finally wanting to finish the thing that I completely forgot the time.

So. My stress levels are up, as are my caffeine levels, but the big list is done and now I can relax for a bit (and get back to my sewing work). That was the third request for an offer this year with a time-frame for making the offer that was, uh, let's call it "less than generous". Mind you, I'm not blaming the people who requested the offers - textile stuff and the scope in getting all the information you need is often underestimated in its complexity and time-eating-ness, just like the
textile work itself is often far underestimated. In addition, I know all too well that in many cases time just is that short, and it's no fault of those planning and requesting, since they often have a schedule imposed on themselves as well, and the way things are, that schedule is in all probability also way less than generous. I'm happy to be asked for an offer, and I am excited to do the research and handle cloth samples and try to find the best solution for everybody for these projects - it's the work I love.

For you, though, just in case you should have a bigger project that includes historical textiles to plan for one day, such like a museum exhibition or something similar, and you know it well in advance - please get to planning the textiles, and asking for offers or proposals or at least getting in contact with your prospective textile workers straight away. It may be that you could have the perfect fabric for your plans - but getting it woven takes a few months. Even getting to the point where you find someone to weave something historically correct for you, bespoke, and get a quote for that can take several weeks to a few months! So everyone is served better if you get into contact as soon as you can - you will have more choices, the crafters will have more fun and less stress, and you may get the extra dollop of research as well.

(Same will apply to other crafts, too. Let your crafters know well in advance. We love to offer you choices and discuss them and find the best possible solution together with you - but that, you guessed it, takes time...) 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

To search on or to stop, that is the question.

When researching, it happens again and again: You run into a dead end, or something that feels like a dead end. That can be due to so many reasons - there's little or no literature about it, you have found about everything there is, or the literature is all really dated, or the topic has only been looked at from angles that don't help for your own project.

And regardless of when you start and how long you planned to research, there will be a point where you are going to stop, or have to stop. Because you run out of time, or out of energy, or both. Because at one point, everything needs to be finished, or it will start to drag you down. Obviously, that cutoff point is coming faster when you are starting with little leeway in regard to time or energy... and I hate it. I don't like to stop, so it can be really hard for me to draw that line and say "no more". Yet that is essential - it's the art of hitting that sweet spot between getting everything you can while still not wasting too much time. You get a similar phenomenon in a lot of design work, where the last 5% of the work tend to eat up 95% of the time. And I've had it time and again that a jackpot turned up when I had already inwardly scolded myself for still going on though it was clear that nothing more would turn up. That's not making it easier to stop.

It's also not made easier by the fact that these searches usually turn up more interesting stuff from the sidelines. Like this article about how tannin and iron dyes eat up fibres. Or this one about identifying dyestuff (unfortunately behind a paywall).

Or the complete original Plictho by Rosetti. Now if only my old Italian were better...

(I'm looking for the bit in the Plictho where lead is mentioned in regard to dyeing textiles. Anyone have that thing handy?)

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cooooffeeee..... coooffeeeee...

I spent a good while sewing yesterday, and also poring over the sleeve problem that turned up on the current project dress. I've found, since I have done the attempt at reconstructing the medieval tailoring technique used for dresses such as St. Elisabeth's dress, that my typical method works less well with some body types. I have stumbled across this phenomenon again these days, and now I'm trying to tweak the method so it will accommodate them all. (Insert evil laughter here.) I'm not totally sure on how I will test-run this tweaked method, but cometh the time, cometh the idea.

I also need some coffee now, since there is lots to do but my energy levels this morning are a bit low. (Surely this has nothing to do with my sleeve-tweaking test right after hopping out of bed.)

In other news, also sewing-related, there's a challenge that I have heard about several times now: the "Historical Sew Forthnightly Challenge". Apparently, not only Cathy, but also VixHQ are participating. This led me to go and peek at the challenge list... it looks really nice, it does. If you are looking for a bit of external motivation for your sewing projects, that might be just the thing for you. For now, though, I have stuff to sew that might fit into the challenge, but is work stuff - and that would somehow feel like cheating to me.

Finally for today, here's an article about the use of hemp in Scandinavia, published in nature - you can download the full article for free, and I highly recommend it, as it covers the "linen" terminology problem.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Moar links.

Books can hide plenty of things - and they can also hide old paper in their bindings. Or, as in the case of this old book, pieces of manuscripts and charters. The library is welcoming input on these manuscript fragments, so your ideas and feedback are welcome.

Gillian (my co-conspirator on the book project we lovingly call "the Beast") is doing an Open Question week on her journal. Just in case you want to pester her with weird questions.

Digital Intellectuals writes about scholarly communication on the web.

There's a really cool frequency comic over at XCKD.

And now I shall go back to my normally scheduled work...

Monday, 17 February 2014

Ah. Sunshine.

The cat is sleeping beside me, and I am working my way through a gazillion and a half of (nice) emails, the sun is shining, I have Chai and chocolate cake for breakfast. There is gorgeous cloth waiting for me to work on a little later, preferably while sitting in the sunny wintergarden. Can a work week start in a nicer way?

While I am nicely swamped in work, you will get some links.

Here is a blog post about the adventures of an archaeological artefact after excavation

Oberösterreich (in Austria, obviously) has a database of archaeological sites, partly with find lists, which is still expanding. I'm hoping they will eventually include individual finds too.

If "Catal Höyük" rings a bell for you, the blog "Castles and Coprolites" might not only amuse you with its title, but also with the poem "Lady of the höyük".

Finally, a really amazing modern fashion dress, showing an old painting recreated as embroidery: Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach, painted in the early 16th century.

Friday, 14 February 2014


(I just learned something new about blogger: when you insert a post title, then press return... it publishes. Does that mean I'm supposed to write the title after the text? Novel idea!)

I woke up to a gazillion emails this morning. I also woke up to the very nice and accomplished feeling that only the prepared edge for buttons (or button-holes) can bring:

The basted line has come out, in the meantime. The other line is stab stitches (Punktstich, for the Germans). It's a time-consuming stitch, but it makes the firmest, neatest, and most pleasing edge for anything that gets stress - such as button closures.

And that's the back of it. Lovely, innit?

(I am known to freak out in delight about stab stitch edges. Call me weird... but only after you have seen, and touched, a properly made one and did not freak out with delight yourself.)

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Something old, something new...

Sometimes life throws you a challenge. My current challenge (well, the non-work-related one) is... vegetarian chili. That's not too bad, you say? That depends, I say.
I've made chili before, and it's basically an easy dish. But the version I'm going for now is actually low-carb vegan chili, due to several different persons with several different food issues that I would like to feed at the same time, out of one pot. And I am, very much, a meat person. I like the strong tastes and the taste mixture of meat with beans and tomato in a chili, very much so. I also like the texture of minced meat in the chili. And while beans are not that high in carbohydrates, they are high enough that I felt a need to put in something beside bean and tomato. Well, apart from my being sort of suspicious that it would be a little... bland otherwise.

So yesterday, I've bought tofu for the first time in my life, and though I've eaten tofu before (not much of that though) I have found out, this morning, why so many recipes talk about marinating it before using it. There was that time, at a living history event, when a piece of wood whittled off of something had fallen into my food bowl. (There's perils as well as joy in sharing camp with a very dedicated woodworker.) Wood, let me tell you, at least when it's fresh and not a weird wood like strongly resinated pine or juniper, tastes like... nothing. Sort of blandness personified.

The only difference to that piece of tofu I tried this morning? (I tried it raw and straight out of the bag, because I am a daring person and wanted to know how bad it possibly could be.) The wood was harder to chew. And probably contained less protein. So at the moment, a bit of tofu is hanging out in some marinade, and later on I shall put a bit of it into a pan and fry it to within an inch of its life... and then see whether my chili project will fly, walk, crawl, or jump over a friendly cliff into the ocean and sink like a stone.

(In the event that it should fly, I promise you the recipe. Should it totally tank, I will never speak of it again, though... so if you want a recipe, keep your fingers crossed for me!)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Tea, anyone?

I'm sitting here with a nice cup of tea, a sleeping cat beside me, and a stack of (library) books to go through for several different projects. The quote I was still busy with yesterday is sent off, and I have a list of questions for the other one, so there's progress on that front.

There's also progress on the sewing - I have tested button sizes and decided on one, and the dress needs one more short fitting session to check and do some last markings if necessary, and then it's down to making the actual seams and hems to replace the current basting. Oh, and button-making, of course.

(If you are curious about how I make cloth buttons, I've made a post about that before - the last time I was making a bunch of them for a museum dress.)

I'm looking forward to the button-making. The thought alone of a little stack of little beautifully red cloth squares, sitting on a table waiting to be stitched, linen thread and wax lying ready beside the needle... it makes my fingers itch. Buttons... buttons are fun.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

This hasn't happened for a long time.

Sorry for the very belated blog post today - after settling down for the workweek yesterday, I seem to have developed some weird sudden muscle supertension with accompanying stuffy-brain syndrome that apparently still had part of my brain in its thralls today. The part that was supposed to remember to blog, for instance.

To make bad things even worse, I don't really have much to blog about today, since I had to take part of yesterday off to regenerate a bit. There's the same old, same old projects lying around on the desk. Though life, currently, has been spiced up by more discussions about pricing of things... people asking me how much to charge for their (textile) work. Fun times!

And the same old projects won't all lie for long, now. My one outline and quote is ready to be sent off tomorrow, after one final check, and the other one needs a phone call or two more but is not far behind. And then these two time-critical things are dealt with, and I can turn back towards all the other work to be done. Yay!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Gold, glitter, textiles, and - of course - books.

Ages ago (or at least what feels like ages), I posted about there being an exhibition about fabulous replicated textiles being shown in Dresden: Parade Textiles for August the Strong.

Special exhibitions somewhere off across the country are a tricky beast, if you ask me. You have to find out about them, and then you have to find a time and a way to get there. And until you've done that and been there, unless you happen across somebody else who already has and whom you can ask, you will not know whether it's worth the effort or not.

I've both traveled to a special exhibition to be totally exhilarated and in love with the thing, coming out of the door after hours and hours of monument-al pleasure, and traveled to a special exhibition that I would have regretted the time and effort put in had it been in the neighbouring town with 15 mins travel time, let alone three hours in the car. Single trip three hours, of course.

I also learned, over the years, that a Spec Ex will not necessarily be large - they can, in fact, be tiny. Which may be a good thing, or a bad one, or neutral, depending on a multitude of things.

Long story short - the most patient of all husbands joined me in travelling to Dresden over the weekend, to see the special exhibition, while the best of all neighbours kindly took care of the cat. (She has lots of personnel, you see.) We had opted for the train, since it's about the same time to spend in car or train, and with the costs our car is running, train was actually cheaper (plus gives you more reading, sleeping, and knitting time.) The special exhibition is one of the very small ones, which I had sort of half-expected, but the textiles shown are really, really beautiful. I would have liked some more in-depth info about the manufacture of the replicas, including more video of how they were made, and some inkling about the costs involved in having them replicated, but that was sadly lacking. The texts accompanying the textiles, both the old and the new ones, were also too technical to let non-textile geeks understand what was meant; an explanation of how velvet is woven, for example, would surely have heightened the appreciation of many of the visitors. I'd also have appreciated some close-up photographs together with the textiles shown, so that you could see the bindings a bit easier. The textiles are not all fully replicated yet, and we were dubious about the colours used in one of the hangings, but I found all the others truly spectacular; lots of gold and silk and a nice deep dark blue and nice shades of red.

After the room with the textiles, we went to look at some of the other exhibits. The museum is quite, quite large (even if you don't book the Historical Green Vault with your ticket), and it's chock-full of those baroque splendour thingies where small items are embellished with even smaller designs, and lots of bling added around it, and precious materials are turned into breathtaking things. Sunglasses, at some places, would be a good idea to dampen down some of the splendour.

And after our museum tour, we did what all good archaeologists do - we visited the museum (book) shop, which was a mixture of a museum shop with the necessary souvenirs, trinkets and postcards; a bookshop; and what Germans call "Modernes Antiquariat" where you can buy older books that have gone out of print for a reduced price.

Now, your typical archaeologist has a thing for buying books (ask our friends who helped us move!) and I am no exception. Especially exhibition catalogues - experience says that if you don't buy them when you can, you may not get the chance again. So we went home with... some more books.

In case you are interested in seeing the exhibition about the splendid textiles, it will still run until February 24. It's a small room with about one dozen pieces, part of those originals and part reconstructions, and being a textile geek will help you appreciate what is meant by "velvet, cut" and "or frisé". If you are a textile geek, though, you might really love it.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Yay weekend soon!

I'm still in the clutches of the current most urgent projects, wrapping up some prelim research and trying to figure out the necessary particulars (and, in some cases, waiting for responses). This is an interesting stage in any project, where everything starts to come together and take shape, and you learn new things and totally go like "wow, that is so amazing".

While I am working on (and totally looking forward to the weekend), you might be amused by this blog post giving you a strategy guide for your life seen as a game. 

Also, the blogging archaeology carnival digest is ready for you over at Doug's place. It's long, interesting, and with a large number of other blogs you might want to check out!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Is it Friday yet?

I perfectly know it's not Friday yet. But oh, how I wish it to be - even though there is lots to do still this week. (Or maybe exactly because of that?)

It's Thursday, though, and a stack of books is waiting for me in the library, a not insignificant number of them about Indigo dyeing. There was that resist-dye experiment last Textile Forum (you might remember), and I am currently writing up the artice about it. Which at some places requires a bit more research into why things happened the way they happened... hence I was ordering in literature.

Oh, and I'm writing up the article now because it is planned for publication in our second Textile Forum Proceedings volume. We are getting a second volume! I am still all feeling fluffy inside about that. Back in, oh, autumn 2008, when Sabine, Roeland and I sat in the pub on the last evening of the EXAR conference and Sabine and I said "we totally need to have a crafts-focused yearly conference for textile people" and "we sort of have the suspicion that if we don't go ahead and organise it, that will never happen" and Roeland said "I can set you up a contact with Eindhoven", neither of us would have thought to one day have a book with proceedings, let alone more than one. So yes, we are very, very happy about that.

So. Not Friday yet. More work. But happy work.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

It's red, Jim.

And what a red. A beautiful, deep, warm red with slight changes in tone depending on how you look onto it.

Pictures, I hear you clamour. Here you go:

You are only getting the unfocused one because a certain person has been requesting gratuitous cat photos for a while, and the focused pic has no cat on it.

This is how it looks from another angle. Aaah.

And finally, a gratuitous cat pic. She's doing very well, the little cat. (Yesterday she figured out how to tell me she needs a stupid willing human to throw her some balls and stuff because she wants to play.)


Oh, and the best thing about the cloth? I get to cut it up and make a beautiful dress from it. Yay!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Here. Have an old book. Or two.

While sitting and sewing, finishing an article, working on a book project and trying to finish knitting a project I want to have on the table, together with a for-sale pattern at LonCon, I have also been doing research about early medieval garments (again). And part of this was done with help of a manuscript with lots and lots of illuminations - the "Stuttgarter Psalter".

It's from the first half of the 9th century, originates from Saint-Germain-des-Près, and currently hangs out in the collection of the library in Stuttgart. Where, praised be digitisation, it has been fully digitised and can now also hang out on your screen, if you follow this link. (Hint: If you should happen to need to download one of the pages at full resolution, zoom in a little bit before you hit "save this image" - that gives you the big one instead of the smaller non-zoomed preview. Smart, smart programmers.)

Should you prefer your manuscripts from the second half of the tenth century in Britain, however, you might want to check out this blog post instead. Or go straight to BL Add MS 49598.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The year is taking on shape.

Do you know that feeling that the plan of the year slowly emerges out of fog and nothingness? January and February are the two months when plans are made and dates are fixed, and the calendar becomes spattered and sprinkled with colourful spots all over. It's an exciting time every time it comes around!

And for 2014, there are a few things fixed that I am really looking forward to already.

As usual, I will be in Freienfels with my market stall. Freienfels this year is April 30 to May 4, and the market is open for all visitors during the weekend.

Next on my calendar is the International Museum Day on May 18, which I will spend at the Stadtmuseum Bietigheim-Bissingen, demonstrating spinning technique both with distaff and spindle and with the Great Wheel.

Right after that comes the NESAT in Hallstatt, a conference I've been looking forward to for, as usual, the last three years.

Next up is a semi-private medieval event in Herzberg, running from June 27 to July 6. The event after that is the exact opposite to private, however: Together with Margit Ströbele from Alte Künste, I will be running a dealer's table at LonCon3! I will also give a paper about textile techniques on the academic programme there. If you are at LonCon, make sure to drop by!

If you want to learn a textile technique or need assistance in tailoring a garment, I have course dates planned for September 6-7 and October 25-26. As usual, details and booking info can be found on my shop page.

And the last date already fixed and agreed upon for 2014 at the moment is our next Textile Forum, which will take place 3-9 November, again in Mayen (we love it there). If you want to keep informed about the Textile Forum, you can subscribe to our newsletter on the Forum homepage.

And if you want to keep informed about my upcoming events and dates, you can always check the list of them on my homepage.

As you can see, the year promises to be full of interesting events already, and I am looking forward to maybe meeting a few more of you this year.