Thursday, 30 April 2009

Highlights from last Weekend

There are things, persons, occurrences on markets like that last weekend that really warm the heart or make you see again why you sit and explain how something works for two days in a row, telling the same tales a hundred times.

One was the lady stopping by again on the second day. On Saturday, she'd seen my bone awl that I use for making eyelet holes and asked for an explanation, since she had one at home but didn't know what it was for. We also chatted about netting needles and tatting, since she described a tatting shuttle to me, asking what it could have been for.
On Sunday, she came to show me the tools we had talked about - and said that since she would not use the netting needles nor the tatting shuttle, she's giving them to me. So I came back from the market with three more textile tools - at least two of them very hard to get.

She made me very happy with these absolutely unexpected presents - and helped me to learn more about the size, form and shape of industrially produced modern (but not really contemporary) netting needles.

The other was the little girl whom the spinner brought over from the spinning booth with the words "And look here, the weaver - that's where the finished thread goes." So she got handed to the weaver for an explanation and demonstration of weaving on a four-shaft loom, and then she came over to me to look at clothes.
After showing her some seams and some garments, I took out a piece of fine silk cloth and explained that even cloth so fine as this was all worked by hand - and then I told her to imagine how long that must take, all those superfine threads, all made and then woven... and she stood in front of my tent for, oh, two minutes, looking totally stunned and saying no more than "Oh. Wow. Oh." while trying to get a grasp on this gigantonormous amount of time and work.

Little lady: Thank you. You really made my day by listening and thinking about what we demonstrated. Seeing you so awed makes me very, very happy.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Exhibition and "Altstadtfest" in Bad Staffelstein

Bad Staffelstein, a town in Franconia, has a yearly festival called the Altstadtfest. This year's date is the 25th and 26th July.

Historical Craftsmanship and historical crafts are the focus of this event. And I'm proud and happy to announce that I will be there on Sunday, July 26, in the Raiffeisen-Bank Bad Staffelstein, showing textile techniques from the Middle Ages. This is also the opening day for an exhibition in the rooms of the bank, where some of my pieces will be shown. The exhibition will probably stay for two weeks after the opening.

So... should you have nothing planned yet for the 26th of July, drop by and meet me in Bad Staffelstein!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Aaargh. Taxes.

Doesn't everybody hate doing the taxes? Well, count me in, at least.

Our wonderful German system wants a tax form filled out and handed in by the end of May. After catching up on my bookkeeping yesterday (hooray!), I thought that today I could at least install the tax program we bought oh, weeks ago.

It doesn't work. And I'll give up now and try to run it on the other computer (though I'd have preferred it on mine). The installation won't run here on mine because my system is missing two components (the installer says) that can't be installed because they just won't work from the CD. One of them is a security update that I have already installed, and the second one is some cryptic thingie that I've never heard of before. And I've re-installed the Service Pack rollup already. I've even tried to run the other update directly from the Windows server, but it won't download since they want to be sure that it's an official 2000 I'm running. And the verification plugin won't work. And the alternative verification won't work either. Gaargh.

I think that I'll have a piece of cake now. And then I'll do nice, productive things far away from this machine. And when we're back after the weekend, I'll find a way to run it...

Monday, 27 April 2009

Back from two days in the sun!

I'm back home, the car is standing outside still half-packed, and it won't be emptied out since we're leaving for Freienfels on Wednesday.

I had the most wonderful weekend, with lots of utterly nice people - some that I already knew, some that I had briefly met before, and some that I hadn't seen beforehand. And the weather was glorious. And the coffee was soooo good.

The market - part of a market/festival in Großauheim - was on a small parking lot with some trees to give us shade, and it took the public some time to find us. Hence, Sunday was much better visited than Saturday.

Lucky me stood between a tablet weaver and a weaver who brought his loom (to weave linen diamond twill, no less), and when he didn't sit behind his loom, he sat with me and we chatted (or rather, I babbled and he sat and listened). Then there were the shows given by Firlefanz - I managed to escape from my net (which I was working on) to watch for a bit, and I nearly fell off my seat with mirth! I'm sorry that I didn't catch more (I'll try to do better next time I see them). And I even got to dance once each day, it's been ages since my last dancing on a market or fair.

To top off all this wonderfulness, I sold some thread, some gold thread and some of the beading needles I brought, and people took info brochures both for myself and for the forum. And a few more people got onto the newsletter for my book. So I'm sitting here a very happy woman today...

Friday, 24 April 2009

Hairnets, part V

TimeZM4 for a little sequel for the hairnet series - all because we did a little math yesterday...
I met up with the lady who did my netting needle, and I have ordered a really teeny slim one - suitable for making very fine mesh. Think Sint-Truiden: think this net:

It is listed as catalogue nr. 102, made of silk thread in rose and beige and almost fully embroidered with silk in grey, beige and white. Mesh size? The publication states 64 mesh per square centimeter, which translates to very little more than one millimeter mesh size! Now that is tiny.

The little math yesterday I hinted at? We tried to calculate how long making such a net would take. The following number crunchies are probably not accurate, but meant to give me (and now you) an idea about how much of a time-sink something like this piece can be.

The basis for our calculation was the net I have almost finished, with the mesh size of 4 mm. For this net, I can pretty safely state about 30 hours for the net until completion, including wetting and setting the finished net. When calculating the same overall size for the tiny-meshed net, I'd need about 16 times the amount of single meshes for the tiny net (since there would fit 16 meshes into one large mesh). Which means 16 times 30 hours, that is 480 hours just for the base of the hairnet! Add to that the embroidery, which I'd guess takes at least as long (maybe one of the embroidering people can pitch in here) - that would leave you at roughly one thousand hours of work just for a puny hairnet.

For sake of comparison, let's translate this into a modern working schedule, with a five day week, fourty hours work time each week. That means twentyfive weeks of work, full-time, provided you really work for eight hours a day on the net, with no distraction whatsoever. Let's add in a week for all the rub-your-eye breaks, breaking threads, bad hair (netting) days, and tea-and-cookie breaks. That means one skilled textile person will work half a year, full-time, nothing else done, just for the puny hairnet.

And people seeing such a net in medieval times will know what this means. How much work this means - and thus, how much money.

So wearing this puny hairnet is something like putting a Ferrari into your garage. Wearing this little beauty is like really thumping the table with your bag of gold, so to speak.

Source: DECONINCK, E., GEORGE, PH., DE JONGHE, D., Y., VAN STRYDONCK M. J., WOUTERS, J., VYNCKIER, J. und DE BOECK, J.: Stof uit de Kist: De Middeleeuwse Textielschat uit de Abdij van Sint-Truiden. Leuven 1991. Catalog nr. 102.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Crazy busy

After yesterday's crazy business, today is going to be at least as busy. I have already stacked material and pre-cut material that I'll take with me tomorrow, have almost finished the obligatory name-and-company-name plaque that you have to hang on a stall by German law, and now I'm sitting writing price tags and price lists.

I'm all tensed up about how the market will go. It's the first time I actually sell (or try to sell) stuff that I haven't made to order (and to measure) myself. I have some superfine silk threads to sell, and I have managed to get my hands on a few spools of real gold thread for couching or brocading weaves. I'm so, so curious whether any of this will sell! I know that I would be all over the stuff, so it remains to find out how many others like me are roaming the market.

Oh, and just before going to bed yesterday, we found that we still have enough material left from sewing our tent to add some sort of a tarp to our equipment. Designing was done in the kitchen, between quarter to and half past eleven. Including the walk into the cellar to check how much fabric there is left. That was fun!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Dag it, baby, one more time...

As I wrote Tuesday last week, I'm into sealing cut edges with wax now.

Yesterday, my brand new (and infernally sharp) pinking tool arrived. (Well, I call it a pinking tool. It disguises itself, though, as a woodcarving implement and hides in woodworking catalogues. But I found it nonetheless!)

I set to work pinking the dagges on a hood. The cloth is heavy silk, dyed a beautiful purple with natural colours. Pinking dagges is fun, and the tool will bite easily through several layers of the cloth at once, but it sure pays to work carefully. That will save a lot of snipping off missed threads afterwards and re-pinking missed spots.

After doing the dagges, I set to work with the wax. What I want is a nice contour of molten wax along the edge of the cloth, hot enough to go into the fabric a bit (to make sure the edge is conserved) but not so hot that it will actually be visible on the outside of the piece. As you can probably imagine, the margin between "too cold" and "too hot" is very slim - so slim that it makes a huge difference whether the tjanting is full or half-empty, even if it is a very small one. With these low temperatures, flow in the tjanting might become obstructed by cooling wax, so there is also a rather big variation in how much wax comes out, and how quickly. While this method is a lot faster and much more reliable than the molten-wax-on-copper-plate method, it demands full concentration and a good sense for when the whole shedoodle is the right temperature (or lots of testing, which is much easier for the beginning). Maybe there is a better method to do this. Maybe there's even a description on how to do it somewhere out there... if you know of one, please share!

I finished the dagges on the hood cape yesterday, including the waxing, and I finished pinking almost all the dagging for the liripipe, so there's some more waxing on today's agenda. This is how the finished and waxed dagges look:

click for larger view

I rather like the look of it.

Oh, and on an aside: Dyeing the fabric seems to have done something for the shine on the not-so-shiny side of the fabric, and I didn't expect that at all. The photos, of course, don't do the colour justice.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Preparing for the Weekend

There are still a lot of things left to do, and to add to the scarcity of time and the amount of things to do, I have to do a library run this week.
Today's the day to write a list with all the stuff I will take for the weekend and try getting some more sewing done - yesterday I got stuck at the computer all the time. One of the reasons was that the info-brochure for the Textilforum was due to go to the printer. It's finished now, I hope I didn't miss any errors in the proofing process, and I hope that the colours will turn out acceptably.

As current working projects, I have the dress, the hairnet, a hood that I can't continue working on at the moment since I am waiting for a pinking tool to arrive, and I started a tablet weave play band, contrary to all good intentions (but using as an excuse that I'm preparing a workshop on tablet weaving). There's stuff coming towards me by post - not only the brochures, but also yarns and the pinking tool, so I'm in a state of happy anticipation. And hope I can finish today's computer work before noon, so I can sit in the sun and sew...

Monday, 20 April 2009

Hairnet, current status

Here's a picture of the current status of the hairnet I'm working on. Only about three centimeters left to net, hooray!

Picture clickable for larger view

As you can possibly see (the photos are not that good), the net is worked in a spiral. The spiralling approach has its advantages, but also a fair share of disadvantages, in my opinon.
I like the fact that, when spiralling, you can just go on and on with netting. Once the spiral is properly established, there is no need to fiddle with the mesh size for the transit into the next row, there are no double threads or new knottings-in for this transition, just netting same size endlessly.
What I don't like is that you will get distortions in the first few rows, until the spiral is smoothed out. That can be achieved either by slowly lengthening the cast-on loops so that the first normal-sized meshes don't stick out so much, or by fiddling a bit with the mesh size in the first rows. And the finish of the net is, of course, also a spiral and will need some more fiddling to look smooth and well-rounded.
Spiral netting is also not too well suited to colour changes in the netting - exactly what I did in this piece, just because I felt like using two colours. Where the colour change is, you always get an abrupt change in one of the percieved "rows", and I think it looks a bit sloppy, or disorganized. It is technically not possible to change this when working spirals; there is no sudden change in one row when working circular. So for multicoloured nets, circular might be better.
And the last thing I don't like now that I'm nearing the end: There are no rows, and hence, there is no feeling of accomplishment on finishing a row. What can be seen as an asset of spiral netting - not needing to transit between rows - can feel tedious. I know that I need about 6 or 7 more rounds in the spiral, but it is awfully hard to keep track how much I have netted in one session.

Taking all this together, I personally feel that netting in the circular would be more appropriate for what I'm trying to get, while netting in the spiral might be the best way for a beginner to make a nice practice piece, only needing to concentrate on the act of netting nice even meshes. Therèse de Dillmont doesn't give instructions for spiral netting; her circular netting "recipe" says to knot in anew for every next row.

After this last stint of spiral netting, I'm not so sure whether it was used as an approach for net-making in the middle ages. It would be interesting to look at some of the extant nets in detail to see whether there is a shortened transit mesh or new knotting in of the thread for the next row, or if there are actually nets worked in the spiral.

The last picture shows the size of the meshes in the net, with the net laid out on a normal 5 mm grid paper. Sorry for the bad quality of the picture.

You can see that the mesh size is approximately 4 mm. I think this is a nice size, still easy to work with a fairly sturdy netting needle, within the size spectrum of medieval hairnets and not so small-meshed that it would take ages to do it. However, netting is not a fast craft, and even with this mesh size, it will take its time. Practice speeds the knotting a bit, but there's a limit to how fast your hands can go. I'll give the exact time needed when I'm all finished with the net, but by now it has taken more than 25 hours.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Herjolfsnæs Patterns

Via the MEDTC-List I wrote about in January, I learned yesterday that a new book about medieval garments will come out in December.

Many of you probably know "Woven Into the Earth: Textile Finds in Norse Greenland" by Else Østergaard. She has worked about the Herjolfsnæs garments and published results and photos of the garments in said volume. There are, however, no patterns in that book.

When I last met her, she told me that she was working on a book with all the patterns. And now it seems to be finished - or at least far enough progressed that there's a publisher and a publication date. The new book will come out in Danish and in English:

The Danish title is "Nordbomønstre - dragtsnit fra middelalderen". The English title is "Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns." The book deals with garments from about 1200 to 1500; the oldest Herjolfsnæs garment is radiocarbon dated to the 13th century.
Due out in December 2009, Aarhus University Press, Denmark.

The book can be pre-ordered both in Europe and in the US. In Europe, go to the contact form on the publisher's website and mail your pre-order request. For those living beyond the pond, you can pre-order via David Brown books. Don't get confused by the slightly different title there, no Viking patterns are in the book.

My preorder is already off. Hooray for a new book for the personal library! Now... where do I squeeze in another shelf?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Season Start is drawing near!

The start of the season for market events et cetera is drawing near. There's still a bunch of things to take care of and organise, there's some additional stuff to do that came in during the last weeks, but at the moment it feels as if it will all come together just in time - maybe not perfectly, but well enough.

I have finished a hood yesterday, there's a dress all cut and lying ready for stitching together, and even the hairnet is progressing nicely. There is a piece of nicely purple silk lying in the living room, ready to be cut and transformed in something flashy and showoff. The threads for another hairnet project have arrived, and I'll have to find out whether I can carry out my vision/plan for this. In addition to all that, I have finally designed a 3/1 twill tablet weave pattern to weave a belt and already prepared the tablets for the weaving - I use playing cards, cut into squares, because they are conveniently small and slim. It's been ages since I last did twill on tablets, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'd love to do another play-band some time, but it doesn't look as if that will occur during the next months. So it's all pretty busy here, but nice-busy, and I'm in a really good mood today.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Measuring Tape revisited

In a comment to the measuring tape post, Piia linked two pictures from Tacuinum Sanitatis, both featuring an ell stick lying around in a tailoring workshop.

Measuring sticks like these are still in use today for measuring the cloth off the bolts. The "ells" that are the basic unit for these measuring sticks are in some cases still marked out on a medieval church wall or the town hall, since the exact length of the ell could differ from region to region.

Regensburg ell, foot and fathom. Photo by Klaus Graf, via Wikipedia.

An ell stick would be easy to make: Take a suitable piece of wood, walk out to the town hall and mark the length of the local ell on your stick. Use this for measuring cloth - it is very handy. You could, of course, bring a piece of string instead of a piece of wood and mark the ell on the string, but for measuring out a piece of fabric to cut from a bolt, the ell stick beats the string hands down - much faster and easier to use. Plus you won't get a knot into the stick by accident.

There is no scarcity of evidence that cloth was measured in ells, and it is pretty logical that the ell would be divided into half, quarter ell etcetera. The markings on the ell stick of one of the pictures linked by Piia look to me like they might mark eigths of an ell. But that does not mean it is similar to a modern scaled measuring tape.

One difference between the ell stick, maybe divided up in half, quarters etcetera and a cm- or inch-scaled tape are the starting units. With the measuring stick, you'd start with the ell as base unit, while a modern tape uses inch or cm. The small modern units are just counted up and up - 25 inch, 135 cm - while the larger ell as base unit gets divided. However, there is a limit to how much dividing is useful. Half an ell? Surely. Quarter? Yes. Eighth of an ell? Will still work. A sixteenth? Hmm... that is already getting pretty small, and quite hard to count. But with a thirtytwoth of an ell, at the latest, your stick is going to have so many markings that it will be not too easy to handle anymore. And such small unit divisions might not be necessary - after all, when you buy cloth in a modern store, you usually buy in half meter increments. If you'd need really small units, you could switch to inches (or "fingers" or whatever is in use in your region) and have a conversion into ells, like feet make a yard and inch make a foot in the British measuring system.

Today, we have a centimeter or inch scale, with the unit meaning the same everywhere - so if I tell you "24 inch", you know exactly how long my thing is. This - together with high-precision printing and plastic materials - makes it easy to produce measuring tapes suitable for everybody and withstanding lots of use.

For the middle ages, this is not the case - there is no common unit of the same length everywhere. So if I told you "one ell", that could mean anything between about 40 cm and more than one metre, depending on what ell I'd use (though most are somewhere between 45 and 70 cm in length). Add to that the fact that textile bands used for measuring might stretch over time, and the fact that taking a measurement and writing down the number is almost surely a very modern way of doing it: You could also mark the length measured on a string or band or strip of whatever else you are using for measuring each client, and then keep the marked-up string for using on your project and maybe for future reference. So there might not have been any need to make a measuring tape like we are relying on today.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Yummy Chocolate Easter Eggs!

I really enjoyed the Easter days - Yummy Chocolate eggs, all my family coming together, and glorious weather.

And some productivity, too: Good Friday was spent playing around with cloth in nice company. Sitting around doing strange things to textiles is just so much more fun when you're not alone in the room.

Since Friday was technically a day off, I found the time to play around with wax for sealing and securing cut edges. There are some hints that beeswax was used for this in the middle ages, and I've long wanted to give it a proper try. I did use wax twice before: Once on the kruseler I've made, and once more to seal dagges cut from fine silk cloth. I'm still not sure on how it was done in medieval times, though.

In those first tries, I applied the wax by rubbing some beeswax onto a relatively hot copper plate and then dipping the edge of the fabric into the molten wax. It was pretty hard to control how much wax would come in at once, and it took a rather long time, with uneven wax rims. But it worked, for the straight edges as well as for the oakleaf dagges.

I have recently acquired a tjanting, the Indonesian wax applicator for batik, and I have used that for my last wax application. It is a bit tricky to get the temperature just right (especially when the candle flame used to heat the tjanting is not too cooperative), but it was a lot more convenient than the copper-plate version. And now I'm wondering: In what extent was wax used to neaten and conserve cut edges? With what types of fabric, and in which cases? And how did they apply the wax back in the middle ages - is there a medieval European equivalent to the tjanting that was not yet identified, because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition a wax application tool in a tailoring/silkworking context?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Sewing again

After getting a good bit further on a woolen hood (quite similar to the Bocksten Man's hood) yesterday evening, I'll try to get started on the new dress today.

It will be a fitted dress with front lacing as closure, and the lining (that is used for fitting) is already fitted to me. So I'll just need to trace the basted lines, cut the surplus fabric back to a sensible seam allowance, and trace the pattern onto the fabric for the upper layer. There are some details I have to decide on, mostly minor, but I like to do that before really setting out, so I will probably take some time before cutting to study my source material - mostly the publication about the Golden Gown of Queen Margareta, but also pictures of similar dresses. Unfortunately, my little finger is hurting when I move it, and I don't have any idea why and what I might have done to set it off. I hope it won't get in the way of stitching.

Before rushing off to books, scissors, and (hopefully) lots of fun, though, there's still paperwork-y stuff to take care of. Sigh. At least it's nice paperwork today, where I don't have to think much, since most of it was prepared yesterday, waiting only to be printed and sent out today.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Research Tool: Internet

Periodically, it occurs to me how much I rely on the internet to do my research and writing work. Not only do I suffer from the "Google is friend"-Syndrome, I do most stuff online - because it is so convenient, especially with DSL and a flatrate.

I got addicted to the net as a research tool when I had the possibility to work at a desk with two computers, my laptop and a PC that was permanently hooked to the 'net, and with a fast connection at that. I started using the net more and more: For getting a quick reference check in Wikipedia, getting translation help in online dictionaries, looking for garments and persons in text and picture databases, checking out information about manuscripts, using Google and Google Scholar as well as other databases to find articles about each and every side topic I stumbled over, and of course reserving books for checkout in the library and making inter-library loans.

There came the day where without the internet connection, my workflow was seriously stunted. Of course I can still read an academic book without help from the net (at least if it is written easily enough written in a language I can read well enough), but I soon miss the easy additional info right at my fingertips - and wanting to check up something, get a translation, a definition, or see whether I've already read the book mentioned in a footnote and maybe reserve it for checkout, and not being able to just do these things, sort of jars my pace.

This is definitely one downside of the internet as research tool. Another one consists of these deep, well-concealed rifts in spacetime you can stumble upon when surfing the internet. Surely you have hit one at least once - suddenly, at least an hour has passed, without any proper work done. There are times when I'm especially vulnerable to time sucks, and I have even resorted to leechblock to keep this at bay.

A third bit that I don't love so much is the fact that the computer has to be on to access the Internet. Even with a laptop that can technically be carried over into the next room, you are chained to a machine that won't work anywhere, that needs proper support, can't take too much rough handling, gets warm and chirps (at least mine does). It's just not as comfy as a good old book, not as easy to take along, as easy to access.

Still, my thesis would not have been possible without multiple online dictionaries, .pdf-theses offered on the net, picture databases and manuscript databases, and very importantly e-mail and museum webpages. I must have spent gazillions of hours looking for information, reading excerpts, looking for books and articles about clothing I had not found before.

And surely I'm not the only one. What about you? How much and how often do you use the Internet as a research tool? Are you relying on the old 'Net too much sometimes? And what do you do to avoid the pits of mis-information and the maelstroms of time-suck?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Who dumps this paperwork on my desk?

Somehow I wonder if I don't have an Anti-House-Elf in my workspace. Or is it really only myself who drops the letters, papers and books on my desk to "file them later"?

The start of the season is coming nearer at fast pace, and I have a bunch of things I still need to get ready and into good order, in both the textile and the text fields of my work. I have started work on a new dress ensemble - the fabric is having a good time in the washing machine at the moment - and I hope to make the first cut into the cloth tomorrow. Another piece of cloth was sent off yesterday for dyeing: I'm in the process of switching to historically dyed fabrics, though I still have a large stash of synthetically dyed textiles, and I will use those too. The weaves are appropriate for garments, after all, and a lot of money went into the stash over the years. Also, having the textiles dyed does cost extra, and not everybody is willing to pay for the cloth, the dyeing and the tailoring. Which is a pity - because if lots of people were as keen on medievally tailored, hand-sewn garments from cloth dyed with natural colours, both my trusted dyer and me would have a better chance of getting rich one day!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Finally finished!

Friday evening, I finally finished the tabletweave I was hinting at - and here's the virtual unveiling now:

(click to enlarge)

Yes, I have woven a measuring tape.

Now, first of all I need to get my disclaimer in. The first surviving measuring tapes are dated postmedieval, and there is no evidence at all for the use of scaled measuring tapes of whatever material and manufacture during the middle ages. So why have I spent hours weaving a wild speculation?

The tape is for a friend and colleague in medieval crafts, a shoemaker who would like to use something a little less blatantly modern than a plasticised shoemaker's measuring tape. A good while ago, we chatted about the difficulties and the possibilities, and I thought about an overly long warp that I still had lying around. We agreed that I would try to weave him a scaled measuring tape, since he has to write down the measurements he takes to work with them at home, thus needing a reliable scale. The measuring implement should be rather stretchproof and, if possible, flat - so a piece of string with knots in seemed to both of us to be not really suitable. We also agreed, though, that a nice slim tablet weave might do the trick. So after straightening out the warp and re-threading the weft in the tablets in a different pattern, I started out on the preliminary tests for weaving an inch-scaled tape.

Technically, this is very, very simple. You just need to find a material and pattern that will be fine enough to give you bars across the weave at suitably small intervals, find a way to brocade the markings for quarter, half and full inches so that the additional or missing brocade thread will not distort the pattern, and then weave while turning the tablets in one direction only to get an undistorted and firm pattern band. Since even a tablet weave will stretch slightly under tension, you have to keep the tension on the warp so low that the stretching is not noticeable.

I had a bit of luck, because the warp that I had would give me the bars at one eigth of an inch with very little persuasion. I figured out a way to brocade with no distortion by looping parts of one weft thread over the surface of the pattern (essentially a Munter Hitch over the threads on top of the weave) and set markings at quarter, half and full inch intervals, with a colour change every five inches. And then it's just weave, weave, weave - and unweave once in a while.

The main problem with the piece were tension and regularity of the weaving, as you can probably guess. I had to unweave several bits during the weaving, which is a pretty frustrating experience. Every glitch has to be rectified. Left out a weft, accidentally? Disturbs the pattern way too much. Warp tension too high? Same thing, unweave and re-weave with the (hopefully) correct tension. Not beaten the weft in enough? Undo and re-weave.

Now I hope that the tape will do a proper job for measuring feet and marking out patterns for new shoes. I have already decided that I won't make a full length tape for my own use, thank you very much: 24 inch of technically simple, but demanding full attention weaving has been enough for me. I'm happy that it turned out okay, though.

(click to enlarge)

Finally, for those of you who are interested, here are the gory details: Both warp and weft threads are Gütermann Silk No. 100 (comes on blue plastic spools). Warp in colours white, light and dark beige, weft threads in blue and red. 17 tablets, threaded alternatingly s and z, turned in one direction only for the whole band. Length are 24 inch plus a little (as a "handhold" for better handling) at the start and at the end. Accuracy was helped by a regular plastic measuring tape that I clipped to the weave with foldback clips.
Should you repeat this stint, please send me a note about how you're doing and maybe a photo - I'd love to hear how you find it.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Lovely Links Listings

I'll toss you some nice links today for a change, and I hope to get a proper textile post in during next week - it's been much too long since the last one. For now, enjoy the more or less textile related goodness here:

The National Museum of Denmark has a new webpage that's worth a good look. If you click your way through to the "exhibitions", you get wonderful pictures that can be zoomed for a real close-up view. Don't miss the Mammen textiles in the Viking section while you're browsing!

I know few people as active as Roeland Paardekooper. The man is a veritable epicentre of connections between folks in archaeology, experimental archaeology, and Living History - it seems to me as if everybody knows Roeland. He's running a rather large database with articles and information about archaeology and open air museums that can be found on

In a comment to one of my hairnet posts, Isis from Medieval Silkwork pointed me to another wonderful database: KIK-IRPA, the website of the Royal Institut for Cultural Heritage in Belgium. Click your way through to the photo library database and be awed: They have pre- and post-conservation shots of the hairnets I have shown and a lot more truly amazing things. Thanks, Isis!

And non-textile related, but nice nevertheless: A kitchen maid from around 1900 blogs about life in and around her kitchen, including recipes. Brought to you by the Danish National Museum, and available in Danish only.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Lent Season

We're in Lent right now, as I was reminded yesterday, and our dinner sort of got me thinking about fasting and fasting in Lent in particular.
We went to some friends yesterday and had dinner there - we brought a salad to go with the pastries our friends prepared. Simple puff pastries filled with minced meat and bell peppers.

It's been a good while since I had bell peppers in a hot meal, because our groceries from the box are seasonal and regional produce, and that means no bell peppers in winter. There are still enough different veggies to prepare meals with, but in the last few months of eating local vegetables, I developed a new and deeper understanding of how wonderful spring and summer is when you are living "the old way". It's true that we can read about it, that connected to Easter festivities is the knowledge that this was to celebrate the beginning of the warm season, et cetera et cetera - but knowing this intellectually and looking forward to spring because it directly influences your diet are two very different things.

So yesterday's addition of bell peppers made that dinner an extremely enjoyable meal for me. With the feeling of true luxury (they were very tasty peppers, too). And I started to wonder about lent in the middle ages - fourty days of food restrictions in a row. Food restrictions normally limited to a few days out of each week, hard enough to understand for our modern minds. And that at more or less the end of the winter season, when the tasty treats conserved for the cold half of the year are probably gone or mostly gone, when chickens might stop laying so many eggs, when everyone is probably tired of eating beans, lentils and cabbage dishes.

So. The rather bland winter diet (bland at least compared to summer and autumn fare), followed by a period of even blander food, cutting out meat altogether. Fourty days of scarcity, and then - Easter, the high church festival of the year, the onset of spring, the feasting with meat and eggs and whathaveyou. Somehow, this makes me think of intentional deprivation to heighten the impact of the feasting and celebrating. Digging into the foodie goodness prepared for the Easter meal must have been something really, really special after seasonal winter food and Lent. Something that we today, when following Lent, might only get a small taste of, because my guess is that the winter foodstuff before Lent makes a huge difference.

And by the way, I'm really looking forward to spring.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Uh. Where's that track to get back on?

Somehow, I'm not really arrived back in daily schedule - hence the later-than-normal blogging. Somehow, my brain is still stuck in holiday mode, even if there are things to do and places to go.

Textile work is a bit frustrating at the moment as well - I still have a bit of the tabletweave to finish, and I just had to unweave a good bit, since I had gotten the tension of the weave wrong, resulting in bad patterning. Not something you'd notice, mind you, but still too much off for this particular project. Pictures and description will follow once it is finished - but not yet.

Apart from that (and I'll be very, very happy once it is finished) I want to cut at least one hood today. And probably get started on writing another article. As soon as I can find the "on"-switch for my brain.