Monday, 31 August 2009

Back on Blog!

I'm back home from a wonderful, relaxing holiday time, and now I'm settling down to the last preparations for the Textile Forum.

The whorls have been fired in the meantime, and they are now safely sitting in a box on my table, waiting to get equipped with a spindle stick each. Using the special "whorl-cookie cutters", that were custom made to my calculated measurements, worked really well. The whorls came out very much alike, they fit the sticks very nicely with their holes, and so I'm quite confident about the whorl part. I snuck back to work yesterday already, spending some time to portion and package the small parcels of wool to give out at the experiment, making sure that everybody gets the same amount of wool to work with.

Now there's the obligatory stack of e-mails to go through - as usual after being away for some days - and the last bit of preparation to make. And very soon it will be time to start writing the lists for packing and gather together all the stuff!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Taking a break

After the rather large workload of the last months and before the Textilforum starts, I'm taking a few days off for much-needed holidays.

This means no blogging for a while - regular blog posts will resume on August 31.

Have some wonderful summer days!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Back home from Cave Gladium

We are back home from a wonderful weekend at Cave Gladium, where I was lucky from beginning to end - wonderful sunny weather (even a bit too hot sometimes), what must have been the best place for a stall on the whole market (right on the "main street" between food area/toilets and the "Hurenweibl"*), incredibly nice colleagues and neighbors all around, and gazillions of people coming by for a question, a chat or a peek into my dissertation manuscript. The latter were so many and so frequent that we put a straw mattress on the ground behind my table and declared it "reader's corner".

And of course there were the requisite food stalls offering a wide variety of things (but I've seen no potato goods), a stage for music (far enough from the stall not to disturb us), there were oriental dried fruits like figs, dates with walnut and nuts, and the"Teezelt", a kind of oriental café that you get on about every larger medieval market in Germany to buy mokka with spices, mint or black tea and sweets to go with your beverage. And I just love to go there for a mokka after closing shop at dusk (because nobody can see my fine threads anyway once it starts getting dark). And a thing seldom seen: One wandering musician walking through the whole festival area playing pipe and tabor - the classical medieval one-man-band!

Taking all together, the Cave is a wild mixture of stalls selling tourist wares, stalls showing and selling wares for Living History, visitors, LH people and costumed people, and everything with a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. And the Cave is big, no, huge even. I'd say if the Cave organisers take a little care during the next years that the tourist ware stalls don't take over, this festival will soon be as big and as important as Freienfels and Tannenberg, both events for the LH scene but open to tourists.

* The "Hurenweibl" at Cave Gladium is a tavern for LH folks only; there's a guard at the entrance allowing only historically dressed people to pass. (Cave Gladium also sports a "no-tourists-area", a meadow reached only over a little bridge with a guard posted before it as well.)
A Hurenweibel was the officer in charge of the Tross (the camp followers) of the Landsknecht armies. A lot of the tourists are a bit nonplussed by this tavern name or start laughing because "Hure" is the German word for "whore", and "Weib" today is still another word for wife, but in many German regions, its meaning has slipped somewhat from neutral or positive in former times to slightly derogatory. So people not knowing that "Weibl" is an old form of "Webel" as in "Feldwebel" often are misled by the tavern name.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Off to Cave Gladium.

I have finished my head-over-heels rush to meet all my deadlines (and it looks as if I can make it, hooray) and now I'm off to Furth im Wald, for three days of relaxing medieval market atmosphere at Cave Gladium.

Regrettably, there have not been enough registrations for the workshops, so those will not take place. (I'm not sure yet whether it was bad luck, not enough advertising/information or whether there is generally no interest to have a learning experience during a Living History/medieval market event.) Instead, I am planning to sit beside my table full of the new goods to sell and chat with people, relax, maybe sew a little bit and generally enjoy myself.

If you are in the region, the Cave is surely worth a visit - and if you are undecided yet whether you want to see the Drachenstich, this year is your last chance to see the experienced old dragon - because next year, the new dragon will take over!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Almost Weekend!

There's still much to do before the weekend - I have some writing to finish, and of course packing for the Cave has to be done. I could need a second self right now to take care of some things - or at least "an Stiftn" (colloquial not for "a pencil", as German-reading folks might think now, but for an apprentice) to do the time-consuming but no-brainer parts of work. Like portioning off the wool for the spinning experiment, a task for me once I'm back from Cave and holidays. The wool and the bags for the wool are already here and waiting to get together - put wool on the scales, take wool from the scales, put wool into bag, repeat 200+ times. The upside to work like that? I get to sit in the comfy, well-lighted living room, on the sofa, listening to good music or an audio-book of my choice. And I'm actually looking forward to the task because of that!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Why do things take so long?

Somehow, things always take longer than planned. Or at least not shorter. So with last week's unexpected (and utterly unwanted) illness and thus a good two days' non-productive time, I am a good bit behind schedule again. Because there is the Cave coming up as well as two weeks of holidays (that are fortunately already booked, so I can't weasel out and not take it) and inbetween, there is rather a lot to do and with deadlines as well, and with communication impaired by general holiday time, I'm feeling a lot behind schedule.

Which also means that the things without deadline - such as making an online storefront, which lies half-finished on my computer - are left behind to wait until there is less craziness abounding. So for all of you who are waiting for the collection of all market stall items, I'm sorry for the prolonged wait, but there is no possibility at all for me to squeeze it in between things. I hope to get it up before Eindhoven, but at the moment I'm not too optimistic that will work. If this takes all too long for you, the tag "market stall" will give you all the posts that include tools and threads for sale. Please don't hesitate to contact me via comments or via e-mail if you want to order something, and I will inform you about the prices and check out shipping costs for you.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Half the world is blogging!

A few days ago, I discovered that a colleague who also studied archaeology at Bamberg has been blogging since 2007 - he is not only excavating and publishing the results, he is also doing a very nice job designing virtual 3D models of historical sites and buildings. On the blog, Mathias Hensch is writing about his excavation work and the historical context, including photos of buildings and of course trenches (and archaeologists in trenches).

If you can read German or like to look at archaeologists at work, take a look at the blog of Schauhütte - Archäologische Dienstleistungen!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Back to work (and back to health)

After a nice week-end, I'm fit for blogging again, but not too inspired as to a topic today. So instead of me thinking too much and straining my brain, here's a link for those of you who don't know it yet:

The Middle High German Database (mhdbdb, standing for Mittelhochdeutsche Begriffsdatenbank) - a database where you can search middle high german texts for word occurrences

and its sister database, the IMAREAL picture database, where you can search pictures for things and persons.


Tomorrow I will go to Bad Staffelstein to collect the exhibits again and bring them back home, since the two-week exhibition is over. So if you are in the area, today's your last chance to see it!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

To Loop or Not to Loop?

I'm sorry this blog post comes so late, but I seem to have caught some kind of summer flu or similar illness. There will be no blog post tomorrow, but I hope to be fit and blogging again on Monday.

I have long been fascinated with fingerloop braiding (or loop manipulation braiding, if you prefer). It is an amazing technique with some disadvantages, but many advantages - the two most important, in my opinion, being ease of working and speed.

There has been a discussion recently in Cathy's costuming blog concerning the manufacture of a six-ended braid in red and yellow to go on a viking apron dress. And I'm afraid I haven't convinced the participants yet that fingerloop would be the thing to use...

What makes braiding difficult is the number of strands. Everybody who has done some single-end braiding knows this: While three ends are easy to handle, five ends demand considerably more attention and practice, and more ends even more so. For a braid with six ends, this means it will be quite time-consuming.
Here enters Fingerloop - to the rescue! With a loop-braiding pattern, it is possible to create almost any* traditional braiding pattern, with exactly half the amount of "ends" to handle. A six-end conventional braid becomes a very fast and easy three-loop-braid, resulting in the same braided pattern as the single-end version. For uneven numbers of ends, the solution is nearly as simple: for a five-end braid, just braid a normal five-loop pattern without turning any of the loops, and you'll end up with two five-end braids.

Because I find that the loops are much easier to handle than single ends, I personally do prefer the loop-braided version. The disadvantages are there - like a tendency to get a tighter braid towards the end, the stubbornness of mistakes (they are very hard to undo) and some technical difficulties for longer braids (though you can enlist somebody to carry the shed, or carry it with your toe, or even build a contraption for beating), but to me, they are far outweighed by the ease and speed of loop-braiding versus single-end braiding.

And to come back to Cathy's problem with the six-end braid, here are some possibilities for a three-loop braiding solution:

This is a simple three-loop braid, with loops consisting of one black and one red shank, both hands taking the loop turned (the lower shank becomes the upper shank on the other hand). It's quite firmly braided, bringing out a nice pattern of triangles in red and black.

This is the same setup, braided more loosely, with the loops turned 360° instead of 180° (so the same colour stays always on top).

This is a 3-loop braid made with 3 differently-coloured loops - one red, one black, one light gray, to show the structure better. Both hands taking their loop turned.

And this is the same setup, but only one hand taking the loop turned - resulting in a double-width band.

Such a double-width band with parted loops (half red half black) will result in a band that is black on the left and red on the right (or vice versa) if the loop taken turned is turned 360° and a kind of "checkered" band with black left and red right, then changing to red left and black right after a while and so on.

There are actually lots of variations using only two colours. And that's another thing I like with fingerloop - even if the colour scheme will not be intuitive, by changing the loop colours, making them from two differently coloured ends, or changing the turning sequence, many different variations can be produced.

*The exception to this is four-end whipcording. It's not possible to recreate this, but then, it's not necessary: whipcording is easily done with bobbins, and quite fast with two persons working.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Still spooling...

I'm still busy with "normal life", containing a lot of spooling threads - but this time, they are coloured! In a joint venture with Sabine from the Wollschmiede, we are trying to bring back really fine, historically dyed silk threads for embroidery, weaving or whatever you can think of.

I have been wondering for some time why there are no such threads available on the market. Well, our current experience is: These thin silks are hard to prepare for dyeing, hard to dye, and even hard to portion off from the hank. On the other hand, they are really beautiful: Fine, glossy silks in awesome colours...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Experiment Business as Usual

It never ceases to amaze me how experiment preparation develops. Even the loosest schedule will tighten up towards the end because of unforeseen complications. And in addition to that, every experiment planned will always take more time, effort and money in preparation and actual execution than planned - I've never had one running differently.

As you can probably guess from this, I was occupied with preparations for the Spinning Experiment yesterday. I spent about four and a half hours making the special spindle whorls, all shaped as cylinders. The reference whorl - a flat disc-shape - was by far the easiest to make, once I had found out how to best do it, while the two other clay shapes - tall, rather slim cylinders - each took much longer. I ended up with the planned 20 whorls for each shape plus two extras for the tall ones, and a few more extras for the reference whorls that will go into my teaching/demonstrating stack if enough survive the experiment. Now the only thing I have to do is to keep my fingers crossed that all the whorls will dry and fire well and without accidents - and after they are finished, I can do the necessary weighing and measuring to fix measurements for the two types of whorl still left to do (but those will be plywood whorls). And then the spinning experiment can start!

Monday, 3 August 2009

A Pleasant Trip to Hell and Back

We spent the weekend doing something totally unrelated to medieval garments for a change, by going to a small townlet in the Franconian Forest (the German Wikipedia article is much better, if you can read German), quite close to where I grew up, and spent Sunday in this region doing a lot of eating and some bicycling on a trip to Hell and back.

If you now wonder what we were up to: We participated in the 7th "Frankenwald Radmarathon", a yearly event where you can cycle up to 250 km, going up lots of inclines out of valleys and back down into valleys. The event is amazingly well organised, and it seems as if 2300 cyclists are no problem at all for all the organisers and helpers - everybody is friendly, relaxed and helpful. The tour includes several larger roads (Bundesstraßen), and there are helpers from the fire brigades who even stop the cars so that the cyclists can roll through smoothly, without stopping. That really feels like being very, very important. The landscape is absolutely amazing, with forests, fields, little creeks, and many quiet roads where you hear nothing but the wind singing in your ears and the tires singing on the road. There are also lots and lots of food, starting with coffee and cake on Saturday, continuing with all-you-can-eat pasta (with sauce Bolognese) on the evening to fill up reserves, there's a breakfast buffet on Sunday morning (you can start tucking in at 5 o'clock there), and after the start at 7 o'clock, there's a stop every 30 km or so where you can re-fill your bottles, have a rest and eat and drink. They call it "Germany's only all-inclusive bicycle marathon", and it really is all-inclusive. We even joked that it's just eating, with the buffet tables spread a bit apart so you can have room for more food again. One of the "food stops" is in a place called "Hölle" - the German word for hell. (Where, incidentally, one of the sponsors is located: "Höllensprudel".)

In addition to all the food and drink and the beautiful landscape, with wild forests and houses all covered in schist shindles, the organisers and helpers manage to turn the whole event into one gigantic party. There's show dancing, music, music and cheering people in Stockheim when the peloton rushes over a large roadbridge for the start in the morning, and there are commentators at start, goal and on the steepest climb 10 km before the goal. And there are spectators dotted all along the road: People sitting on the sidewalk in lawn-chairs and watching, people watching from their gardens or balcony or out of their windows. On top of the last steep hill, there's a "fan mile" with a bunch of people cheering, shouting, photographing, making lots of noise to help motivate the cyclists, and one of the obligatory professional photographers making a picture of all those creeping uphill (about 1,5 km with up to 17% incline).

All together, it is a wonderful event - beautiful views, interesting routes, wonderful food and a great party. And we'll be sure to go to Hell again next year in August!