Thursday, 22 April 2010

So... I'm almost off!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man day spent very productively must inevitably be followed by one much less productive.

Following this truth, I did (of course) not get done everything I had hoped for yesterday. Still, gold thread has been wound off into portions, "get-hooked-on-goldwork"-kits have been assembled, things have been aired out and packed up and put together and planned.

So. Today I have to take care of some mails and then I can start getting all that stuff into the car... and I'll be off tomorrow! Since this means no blogging until Tuesday or Wednesday the week after next - when I'm back and hopefully recovered - I will at least leave you with few links.

First of all, there's an exciting new research project on textile and clothing terms in unpublished medieval sources at the University of Westminster.

Secondly, the workshop list for the Textile Forum is now completed and online - so if you are interested in learning about stone-age bast twining techniques, couched embroidery, traditional one-piece footwear, twined knitting and much more, get yourself registered for the Forum!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Not much news here, actually.

 I spent yesterday doing all those preparatory things that need to be done before the first market of the season - dragging out the wares and demo stuff, checking them for good condition and packing them into baskets and transport boxes; cleaning and waxing my shoes; gathering together the cooking stuff and planning on what food to take; packing a tent with the small stuff for the tent and camp - bag o' pegs, hammer, axe, some ropes and so on. I have watered all the baskets that were needing some moisture, and thus I hope to squeeze in not only the last preparations of things to sell (couched goldwork embroidery kit, anyone?) but also an hour or so for the most urgent paperwork.

And another thing on my list today: Find a good way how to transport all those books... from here into the car, and then from the car into the TGV once it is set up. Ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Now for the next bit...

First of all, thanks for all your comments, congratulations and felicitations - they make me extra happy.

Today, tomorrow and Thursday I will spend doing all the stuff that I had planned to do last week - checking the wares, packing decoration and supplies, buying some foodstuff so that I won't starve in Freienfels, and doing soma last-minute preparations. I'll also do the rest of preparations necessary for the kids' workshop on spinning and fingerloop braiding that I will be giving there - and I am totally looking forward to that!

Since that is plenty to do for the remaining days, there won't be much else happening here. However, this is just once more proof that the week before the season starts has to be insanely busy.... because that is one of Murphy's Medieval Market Laws: You never get everything done during the winter.

Which reminds me of one of my favourite Living History jokes... says one LH guy to the other: "Oh, I will sew a new tent in the winter, and a new tunic, and a cloak - and I will build a bed, too." Answers the other: "Wow. That week before Freienfels is going to be really busy!"

Monday, 19 April 2010

Alles unter Kontrolle.

This Friday and Saturday were busy days, like the rest of last week, with a long stint of tent-sewing and tent woodwork. But on Sunday, we spent most of the day relaxing - going on a nice little cycling tour in the very, very fine weather, doing some garden work, having coffee and relaxing with friends on the lawn. And today, I'm making a little trip to Bamberg to bring back some (slightly over-)due books to the library. And then I will start doing the preparations and packing for Freienfels...

because the TGV, friends? It's finished. Done. Complete.

Well, technically and if you want to be very strict, there are a few hems that could still be done, but none in acute danger of fraying (selvedges rule!), and there's one optional peg loop that I could still attach, but for all practical purposes, the TGV is done and finished. And I'm not going to be very strict in this case, so neither should you. We made the last closure attachment stitches on Sunday evening, after the relaxing day, and this means that it took eight days from the first cut to the last stitch. Seven full days, if you count that we didn't start before noon and didn't really work most of Sunday to finish. I would not have believed that possible when I started, and that the tent is now finished makes me go "whoa hooray!" every five seconds or so. Though I can also say that it would have been much, much harder to stay on it without the wonderful support and sewing help that I received, and I'm not planning to pull a stunt (I'd say "Kraftakt" in German, which might be translated as "tour de force") like that again soon.

But now, I have a tent. Heavy cotton canvas, absolutely and positively totally waterproof (you could make buckets from this stuff), sewn all by hand with waxed linen thread, in saddler's stitch.

The front opens up completely, right up to the ridgepole.

The apses are more or less half-round, and they are not constructed of equal-size pieces. That also means that the apse bell tips reach further down towards the back, looking unusual but - I think - elegant.

The tent is comfortably high enough for me to stand in, and my sleeping place will just fit into one of the apses, leaving the second one free for wares and market stuff.

And the front awning comes down to close the tent, of course.

What is still missing on this picture? Right. The closures. And that is how they look:

There you are. One tent, coming right up!

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Way I spend my days - Take Two

A while ago, I posted about working the mornings on the computer and spending the rest of the day, after about noon-ish or so, on the tent.

Well, with the tent emergency, this has changed a bit. Now I spend some time in the morning at the computer, but I try to manage an hour or so of work on the tent before the clock's hand points to high noon. And then I just stay put and sew on. Where before, I took an hour's break to potter around in the garden each afternoon, I'm now only making breaks to brew some more caffeine-containing hot motivational drink, get rid of said drinks' residue, and have a quick bite to eat when the hunger gets too strong to ignore. And where before I'd call it a day when the most patient man arrived home from his work - at around six or so - he now sits down together with me and takes up needle and thread, and with some break for food, quitting-the-tent-work time is usually not happening before eleven.

I'm decidedly feeling the strain on my hands now. I'm trying not to lever myself up from the floor with help of the hands because it gives me discomfort in the wrists. The two fingers that somehow get most contact with the needle sport a funny selection of spots on the fingertip skin from abrasion or almost-pricks, and I feel my back from sitting bent over the tent for so long. But I am also privileged to the first-hand experience of two caring, helping people that sit down with me, one for at least an hour in the afternoon, one for a few hours in the evening. They take some of the load off my back - and, at least as important - they give me the feeling that I'm not alone and they are wonderful company to stay motivated to sew.

And all the strain is leading somewhere. The sewing I had planned for yesterday actually went faster than expected, and day before yesterday was an extremely long sewing day* and thus saw a lot done as well. The tent is now not very far from being functional, though I'm still refusing to fully believe that until it stands in our garden and we are cutting the wood structure to length.

Now... I think there's a spot on the living room floor waiting for me...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Forum News!

I'm sorry for the much delayed post - our Internet was acting up, just when I was about ready to post this, and it took a good while until it recovered.

The Textile Forum planning is progressing nicely, and I have just updated the Forum website with the workshop offers.

We have received a number of really, really yummy topics for the workshops, and I'm already afraid that we will have a hard time to make the schedule in a way that will enable as many people as possible to attend as many workshops as possible. And the range of workshop topics is huge as well - from stone-age twining techniques with tree bast, Iron-Age tablet weaving techniques and felting of hollow forms to Norwegian Twined Knitting, there's bound to be something that tickles your curiosity.

Thus if you are interested in the Textile Forum, now would be a good time to click your way to our site and have a look!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Have a cat.

Those who know me a bit closer in real life know that I don't have the world's most resilient teeth. And this, together with, um, a slight reluctance to have my teeth drilled into has made me turn to dental floss.

To relieve my brain, today I give you not much text, not much nothing, but this link to a very, very fitting picture.

And I promise a more substantial post for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

All the stuff to do, it makes me queasy.

I am sadly, badly lagging behind now with a medium-sized stack of paperwork that I don't have much energy for at the moment, but need to tackle really soon ("really soon" as in "yesterday"). So... the plan for today consists of going to the kitchen to make some tea, sit down at the tent to work some, change to the computer and desk to take a break from sewing and do some of the relaxing paperwork, change back to tent, and so on, all the while consuming medium to large quantities of tea and chocolate.

The tent (as you can glean from the fancy progress bars now in the side of this blog) has already gotten a nickname: Tente à Grande Vitesse, short TGV. There's still a huge lot of work left on this, but things are not looking as bleak as they did on Saturday afternoon. We might even have enough wood in our stash to make the wood structure (which consists of only two uprights and one crossbeam) from non-hardware-store wood.

All the practice sewing on the other stall tent, by the way, seems to have elevated my saddler's stitch working speed quite a bit. When we started on the TGV, I checked how much seam I had gotten done in an hour, just to get a feeling if this project was doomed before it really started or now. If things run smoothly and I am not too tired, I sew about one metre in an hour. That's actually not too bad, I'd say.

On a totally different note: If you are waiting for updates on workshop offers for the Textile Forum, that is one bit of the paperwork I'm due to tackle today. Updates thus coming soon.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, folks.

Emotional rollercoaster ride, anyone?


Well, it wasn't what I had planned for the weekend, too - but I was in for it anyways. After all the elation and good vibes from getting the book safely delivered here and it being just as nice and well-made and smelling of freshly printed book as could be imagined, Saturday had a rather big and nasty surprise for me.

Friday evening was spent happily sewing along on the market stall tent, making good progress with some help of the most patient of all men. On Saturday morning, after a nice breakfast, I finished off one of the side wall seams in the left side of the tent; the side wall slant was cut partly and sewn in partly at that point.

Saturday afternoon, we took the tent into the garden to put it up - to mark the spot where the side wall and the back wall would be sewn together. And that was when it happened: As we were arranging the fabric on the lawn, the half-cut-off strip from the side wall got caught somewhere, or maybe I pulled on it slighly.


Well, let me tell you - that is not a sound you want to hear (or expect to hear with heavy-weight, brand new linen canvas cloth). The fabric intended for the tent and, indeed, 80% already transformed into said tent, rips as easily as wool cloth. And that is not at all suitable for a tent which, after all, will bear considerable wind load.*

However, this accidental discovery has finally made me bite the bullet and face the fact that I have bought a very, very bad quality cloth for a rather high price.** And thus I spent not only the money, but also many hours of sewing for nothing - because there is simply no way at all that this stuff will make a tent. (I guess I should have realised that long before now, but hindsight, 20/20, rivers in Egypt, stuff like that.)

And that meant that 12 days before Freienfels I am without a suitable tent for a market table. (In case you didn't notice: Low point of rollercoaster ride, right here.)

What to do except try to find some way out? Naturally, our plans for the rest of the weekend did change at that point. I went digging for the rest of the fabric left over from our existing tent in the basement, hunting down the bolt of cloth left over and the scraps as well. Saturday evening I spent mostly thinking, planning, sketching and measuring (and a little knitting, to relax).
Sunday morning I spent doing tent-y maths again and trying to figure out how best to turn 9,78 metres of fabric 2 metres wide plus a trapezoid piece of 90 cm on top and 144 on bottom, a bit more than 2 metres long, and a rather long but not more than 80 cm wide (at the widest) strip into a tent large enough for one small person, some customers of undefined tallness, and a market table. With as few seams as possible, of course.

It will be a double-belled wedge tent, with one side opening up into an awning. Eight main seams (each about 2 metres long), plus seams in the tips of the bells. Plus hemming (at least the door/awning has to be hemmed, to take the strain). Measurements will be around 2,5 m x 4,5 m floor space, with 2,25 m height.

The rest of Sunday? Spent sewing, together with the most patient man of them all. And receiving offers for help from several sides, to my profound gratefulness. Happy is the person who gets help from friends in such dire straits!

And the plus side of all this (because there has to be a plus side): The sturdy cotton fabric has served for our normal, spokewheel tent for years now, without any traces of wear; I know and can totally trust that this cloth will be absolutely waterproof, even if things lean against the fabric from the inside in heavy rain. And due to some quirk of nature, sewing the sturdy fabric is somehow much faster than stitching together the soft linen stuff - so we made very good progress yesterday.

If anybody is looking for me later - I'll be sitting on the living room floor, working on the tent.

* The tent design is not without its flaws, and high wind load is one of them. This last test has also shown that the stall would not stand without pegs - not because of low stability in good conditions, but mostly because it is so lightweight that it can be lifted up by slight gusts of wind already.

** I do believe that this is not the fault of my supplier, who has only ever delivered me best quality stuff up until now, and I have contacted them to find out they are as amazed about the "properties" of the cloth as I am. I will send them a sample of my very soft, as-water-deterrent-as-a-sieve, very rippable cloth and we will discuss matters from there.

Friday, 9 April 2010

My brain is on holiday today.

After all the hooray-shouting and happy dancing around of yesterday, my brain seems to be on holiday today. So no deep, thoughtful blogging this morning - in fact, I almost forgot to blog, getting caught in some investigations on how best to pack and send the books that will go postal.

I'm trying to keep focused on the task by constantly reminding myself that I only need to persevere until a little after noon - then the afternoon is reserved for going to Bamberg, handing in my three legal deposit copies and having a celebratory coffee or three.

Back now to doing stuff!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

They have arrived! Hooray, hooray, and hooray again!

My little camera has seen quite a bit of action this last while, and yesterday it had to get out of its nest again to take some pictures in our garage - because this arrived here yesterday afternoon:

Just in case that you can't guess what the content of this sweet little package is (delivered on an old DB-pallet (DB is the German rail service), here it is all opened up:

The content?

My book. One hundred fifteen copies of it. They now sit here in the study, making a very nice stack, waiting to go somewhere where they will want to be read, re-read, lugged around, pulled out of a sewing project bag and stuffed back in, adorned with scribbled notes on scraps of paper stuck between pages, accidentally dropped on the floor, pointed at, maybe even given a coffee or tea stain or two that they can boast to their colleagues. Some of the copies printed might be a bit pernickety and prefer the quiet life of a bookshelf, or the moderately adventurous life of a library book, but I am sure those in my stack are all of the hard-boiled kind that doesn't mind to see things like the insides of bags, sewing supplies close by and lots and lots of use.

Since the books have been delivered to me, they should also have found their way to the publishing house and thus should arrive soon if you have ordered from the publisher or from a local bookstore. If you have, at some point in time, written me an e-mail stating that you are bindingly ordering a copy of the book from me, I will contact you per mail before I send out your book, just to make sure that you don't end up with two copies instead of one. I will also bring the books to Freienfels for those that would like to buy a copy in person.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Thing - in action.

Here are the promised pictures of the Fibonacci knit - first the after-blocking shot:

Now the double-Fibonacci spiral is clear to see. Blocking this form was easier than I had expected - I just blocked each section between the decrease lines, beginning from the middle and working towards the thinner ends. The resulting form means that the wide back piece will drape nicely across the shoulders, and when then hang freely, the ends fall in a pleasing corkscrew spiral:

And then there's a multitude of other ways to wear it - wrapped loosely or tightly around neck and shoulders, draped across back and chest, symmetrical and asymmetrical. And the best thing? It keeps back of neck and shoulders nice and toasty warm, and if you wrap it loosely around and tuck in one of the spiral ends, it will stay on and on and on.

And as an extra bonus for you - here is an action shot where you can see the texture of the stitch pattern a little more clearly.

I am absolutely delighted with how this turned out! It is comfortable, nice to wear, lightweight yet warm, and not as large as a full-size shawl. I put it on yesterday once it finished blocking and I haven't wanted to take it off since then - I guess this will see a lot of use!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


With knitting being so much more communicative and so much better suited to sitting at a table than sewing a tent, I got a lot more knitting done on the weekend than tent-making - even though we took the tent with us, there was somehow no getting around to sit and work on it.

On the plus side, that means I finished the secret weird knitting thing and made a good start on the next project. Both are scarf-like objects, but with a twist - or should I say spiral?

I won't show you the one in progress (yet), but here's the finished piece, happily blocking along.

I'm sorry for the hard-to-discern lower bit, but I ran out of blocking mat and had to continue on the carpet.
The thing is part scarf, part stole, and part cowl, inspired by the Fibonacci spiral. It will not slip off if you simply drape it around the back of neck and shoulders, leaving the front ends to hang; it will tuck up warmly and securely around your neck and shoulders for some extra warmth, and it will always look like something else than a humble, normal scarf. More like a fancy, shaped stole. If you hang around with maths freaks or other geeks, you might even find it a wonderful conversation starter - or a great present for the colder half of the year!

While it looks somewhat lace-like, only the very short, simple and easy-to-remember bamboo stitch pattern is used, and the lacy look comes out in the blocking. There is a fair bit of counting required, but it's easy counting, no squinting and swearing needed. It is worked from the outside edge inward, so lots of stitches to cast on, but less and less to work with every row. The decreases are a bit special and absolutely fascinating - have you ever heard of the bunny-ear decrease before? This piece is worked with bunny-ear decrease and bamboo stitch, a match made in knitting heaven, making it nigh impossible to tell where the decreases take place.

The pattern works nicely with variegated yarn, showing off the colour changes, but will also look stunning in a solid colour (especially if blocked vigorously to enhance the lacy look). I will post some on-person photos tomorrow, and then get the pattern written up and test-knit as soon as possible.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Easter is Coming!

Easter is approaching, and with perfect timing, the daffodils in our garden, kindly left as bulbs by the previous tenants, are blooming. (It's perfect timing because the German name for daffodil is Osterglocke, literally translation: "Easter Bell".) Easter also means that I will not be blogging tomorrow or on Monday.

But before I disappear into the extra-long weekend, here is a link that was announced on a textile-focused list today:

The Ohio State University has initiated a database project to help with the identification of fibres, providing microscope pictures of different kinds of fibres. The Fiber Reference Image Library, as it is called, is intended to serve as a reference library, as the name already says, but also as a teaching tool and information base. If you always wanted to take a really close look at cotton, wool or (my favourite pic) jute fibres, have a look at the database at!

After the weekend, I hope to have good progress news and pics not only regarding the tent, but also the portioned and packaged gold thread and maybe even the knitting project. And that probably means I should get busy now and stop browsing fibre pictures!