Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Something new! Something wonderful!

The old year 2010 (can you believe it's almost over already?) is yet bringing something new, and a very, very exciting thing to boot: Last Friday saw the ground-breaking ceremony for a laboratory and workplace especially for Experimental Archaeology in Mayen.

Mayen is a city in the volcanic Eifel region in Germany, with a long history as an economic centre. Nowadays, the region is visited for the very special landscape that still shows volcanic activity. And now it will gain a new attraction, at least for experimental archaeologists: The Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology aims to provide the infrastructure and logistics for experiments that are difficult to run otherwise, with different workspaces and proper laboratories to make first analyses. I think that sounds like heaven, and I am very happy that a project like this has now officially taken off and is being built!

If you understand German (or are interested anyway), you can see a TV report about the ground-breaking on the TV Mittelrhein homepage; the report about the lab starts at 8:35. It's only about two minutes long, and you can see how cold (and thus hard) the ground already was for the ceremonial use of spade and shovel. The building is scheduled for official opening next summer, and I hope the hard winter that has been forecast will not delay the process!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Snow! More snow!

It seems as if Winter took his job seriously this year - while we had good weather with no snow and not too much rain until the last week of November, it's now snow and more snow - and the cold temperatures that go with it.

Aside from low temperatures, winter always means shorter days and less available light, but I have a good way to counter this. For projects where I need a lot of good light, I have an adjustable lamp with a daylight spectrum bulb. A few years ago, daylight spectrum lamps were really pricey and hard to get, but it has become much easier now, and I can really, really recommend them. Not only do they provide wonderful light for working, with very little to no perceived colour changes in your workpiece, they are also a good countermeasure against light winter depressions that occur when the body doesn't get enough natural daylight. So if you are still looking for a lamp for the dark months, or need to replace the bulb in your workplace lighting fixture anyway, I can very much recommend daylight spectrum bulbs!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Winter has come here!

This morning, snow was covering the trees and bushes and lawns here, and there's still a very light powdering of more snow coming down. So it seems as if winter has well and truly arrived now. (How good that we got married last Saturday and didn't plan it for this week - taking photos in the park would have been... uh... extra-cold then.)

In addition to snow falling, our Internet connection is acting up, and it's sort of a gamble whether a page will load properly on the first try (not very common) or whether it needs between three and ten re-load attempts. That is not the best basis for getting computer work done, and it severely gets on my nerves, especially since I have to take care of some maily and internetty stuff with a high priority. I guess if it won't work at all, I'll just have to work on other stuff first and hope the connection settles down again to its old reliability soon.

With winter now officially here, the Season of Secrets is starting up again - preparation not only for the Yuletide days, but also for next summer season and its markets. And then there is, of course, the prospect of maybe a workshop or two during the cold months - there is some planning going on right now. And it would not be winter without cosy evenings with friends and copious amounts of tea. So... the most important questions right now are "will we have as much snow as last year?" and "how much of the To-Do-During-Winter list will stay undone this year?" - and I'm looking forward to finding that out.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

: )

Thank you all for your congratulations and good wishes!

We had a wonderful time on Saturday with both our families and lots of friends - and of course (as is typical for a wedding in Franconia) lots and lots of good food. And now we are slowly getting used to normal life again (and maybe even to the consumption of cake now and then - never in my life have I had such a cake overload before). It's astonishingly unfamiliar to be wife and husband now, something new added to our life together now after quite a few years of "wilder Ehe" as it is called in German. And we're also recovering from the total frenzy of the days and weeks before and the day itself (which to me felt like about five days rolled into one, it was so intensive).

And now I can actually say "my husband" when talking about the Most Patient Man of Them All. That's bound to occasionally make a conversation easier - or at least less lengthy...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What? Not again?

A week or so ago, I chanced to look on the blog archive thingie on the sidebar, and it occurred to me that

a) the year 2010 is almost over - it's the middle of November already! Where has all the time gone? and

b) I must have been on tour and doing stuff much more often this year than last, since I have quite a few less posts for 2010, and I guess I won't be making about 40 more posts until December 31.

In fact, I'm very sure about that, since I am going to take a few days off the blog. Again. I'll be off the blog (and probably off the internet too) until next week Thursday, when normal life should have reasserted itself after our wedding.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Links and things.

I stumbled over a batch of nice links recently, and I'm finally sharing them with you:

The Anjou Bible is fully digitalised and online - you can see it here. The Book Viewer is in Dutch, but the icons' functions are very, very obvious, so you should have no problem looking at the pictures.

I also stumbled across a site called Decameron Web with an article about sexual positions in the Middle Ages. There's also a lot of other resources and information about the Decameron there, including an Italian and English version of the text.

And finally, there's an interesting non-medieval project going on: An artist called Christopher Salmon is on the quest for money to make a short film from Neil Gaiman's short story "The Price". The text will be read by Neil Gaiman himself, and there's stunning artwork in graphic-novel-style going with it.

If you like the teaser and want to support it, you can pledge money (starting from 10 Dollars) to the project. The money will only be deducted from your account if enough supporters can be found - the film is budgeted at 150.000 USD, and there's yet a ways to go until that amount is reached.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, sheep's wool was a valuable resource, prized and traded across all of Europe. Once upon a time, sheep's wool was so valuable that a lot of effort went into breeding sheep to get good, well-spinnable crops of wool. Woolen cloth was used to make clothes, blankets, even sails and tents. Garments were tailored from woolen cloth that was so sturdy it would stand decades of wear. Good wool was highly prized.

Today, sheep are bred that will not give a crop of wool, because getting the sheep shorn will cost more - much more - than the normal market price will yield for the wool. Sheep are shorn with no regard to shearing quality, and the fleece taken off is not sorted, but just stuffed into sacks and put away. The only wool that will still get a slightly higher price (which is still in no relation to the worth of good wool as a material) is standard white merino wool, which will then be washed, straightened, and carded to death, resulting in the standard top that you can buy everywhere. Thread spun from that will not be very sturdy in comparison to wool that has not been treated to death.

And for all those of us who would like to work with wool different from this? We now have a problem, Houston. Because worth of the wool has gone down so far that wool will be thrown away (that can cost money in Germany, by the way, because it is "special refuse"), it is often given away for free - and that is further lowering the perceived value of wool. If we let this go on for another decade, who knows if it will be possible at all to get wool suitable for historical crafts anymore?

Which brings me to a question directly related to this. Would you, gentle readers, buy wool prepared in accordance to historical treatment/preparation of wool - that is, not washed (only rinsed, or not been in touch with water at all) and then combed so that you spin in the grease and then wash the yarn? Would you be willing to pay a fair price for wool like this, meaning that this wool would be much pricier than normal, factory-prepared wool? Or are you content with what is offered from the factories nowadays?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Anyone for a quick game of chess-figure-making?

Here's the promised explanation about what lurks in our kitchen, waiting for all the Hartenstein stuff to be finished:

Clay chess figures in classical 14th century forms. From left to right, you see knight, queen, rook, pawn, rook, king, and bishop.

For making this, I had help from Doris Fischer, who graciously provided me with information about typical chess figure forms. Thank you, Doris! She also wrote a book called "Mittelalter selbst erleben!" (published by Theiss); the book provides ideas, recipes and instruction well suited to project with children. If you would like to learn more about it, she has a German-language website here where you can learn more about the book and about medieval gaming.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


We now interrupt our regular programme for a completely unscheduled and unexpected "Hooray!"

Yesterday, I received an e-mail telling me this little blog here has made it to a Top-50-List which you can find here - it's called  50 best blogs for Medieval History Geeks. And I was totally stunned and amazed to be in one list with the Great Ones of Medieval blogging, like the Medieval Material Culture Blog, Got Medieval, Unlocked Wordhoard and many more.

If you don't know the other blogs on the list, do go check them out (that's time well spent) while I am here, feeling totally cool because I've actually been listed in a Best-Of-List. Hooray!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Everything normal.

Well, everything as normal as you could expect when I'm somewhere in the equation - my desk sports a good-sized list of to-do items, there's mail waiting to be carried out to a friendly letterbox this noon, and you can see a healthy mixture of clutter and actual desk surface here. Plus, there's Hartenstein project work scattered over the wintergarden and the living room, where I do most of my sewing work. Oh, and the kitchen sports some, too. (Wonder what? Maybe I'll show you tomorrow...)

But at least things are progressing quite nicely - and it's a good feeling to have my feet back under the self, work-wise, after the jumble of the last weeks. I still haven't gotten used to the fact that it does take me a few days after a conference until I'm fully back on the normal track. Well, hope springs eternal, as they say...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Searchable Textiles Database

The Internet holds many surprises, and one of them is a searchable database associated with the book "Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700" (2007) by Penelope Walton
Rogers: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/archive/clothing_eh_2007/index.cfm

This covers the period AD 450-700 and includes 3802 records of textiles from 162 Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, searchable by using drop-down menus. I have only taken a very short look at it, and it will probably be most useful if you own the book the database goes with, but it might come in handy anyways...

Monday, 8 November 2010

Pics from the Conference.

It's already been a week since I came back from the OEGUF conference, and I haven't even posted a picture of it yet. So... here's photographic proof that:

... I had something to say (this is me and Karina delivering a commentary to a short film showing different methods of preparing wool for spinning)...

... I went on the excursion to Schwarzenbach to see, among other things like the museum and the "Keltenfest" area, a flock of Racka sheep...

... and a most beautiful sunset...

... and also to the excursion to Asparn an der Zaya...

... and I did engage in Photo Wars with quite a few people.


Special thanks to Wulf Hein for the first photo and the shoot of myself in the Photo Wars!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Button pictures.

I should have posted this yesterday, but I somehow hadn't gotten around to taking a pho was too lazy yesterday morning to take a picture. Here are the cloth buttons on one of the sleeves, already popped through their respective buttonholes.

That's a Euro one-cent piece included for scale. Welcome to 14th century button madness! I ended up attaching 22 buttons to that sleeve opening, so it will be about double that on the two sleeves together.

And those are definitely representative garments - because even if button-making is not taking so very long for each button once you have the method down pat, it is amazing how long the combination of making the button, attaching the button to the prepared (strengthened) edge and cutting and sewing the button hole will take. Those posh button rows are a time-consuming thing, and it is also rather time-consuming to button it all up when you are dressing in one of those things. Years ago, I made a hood with small cloth buttons after a find from London, and I have very rarely worn it buttoned, because it takes so long to pop every single button through its appropriate buttonhole.

Looks quite nice, though, doesn't it?

Thursday, 4 November 2010


I like buttons. Maybe I don't like them just as much as 14th century fashionable folks liked them, but I do like them.

And that's a good thing, because I am going to spend a chunk of today making cloth buttons (unstuffed, with no core, just out of a bit of cloth) and sewing them to the edge of a sleeve opening. And then I'll do the buttonholes. And then some more buttons and buttonholes.

And then, on the second dress... you guess what? More buttons! Because I can't let these two here...

... be dressed non-fashionably, can I?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

It's good to be back home again!

I'm back home with the slight residue of a cold I caught somewhere during the last two weeks (fortunately it was a light one), a brain full of new information, project development for the winter season already started (it was a long drive home, with plenty of time to plan together with Sabine), and - as usual - a nice backlog of work and stuff to be taken care of.

The OEGUF conference was wonderful, though it had a few minor drawbacks: Our room was getting quite stuffy quite soon, there was no conference coffee point (which seriously cut back on the usual coffee socialising), and that in connection with short breaks due to the programme being stuffed very, very full, there was just not enough time to catch everybody I wanted to catch to chat or comment or discuss with. But apart from that, there was lots of laughter, oodles of fun, and a very large amount of presentations that were brand-sparkling new (at least to me) and of a very high quality - archaeologists and craftspeople alike meticulously looking at tiny details and working out things about bell beaker making, salt mining, and music instruments, to name three topics among many. The spinning experiment presentation was very well received too, and I did get quite a few comments about it, including one from a skilled statistician who offered to also take a look at the database and see if he might be able to see something in addition or something different from what I found when staring at all those numbers.

I met with some folks that I had not seen for a longer or shorter time, and it was wonderful to reconnect and see them again; and I also have some new acquaintances among the colleagues. There were two excursions, and during one of them I had the opportunity to make contact with the caretaker of a herd of museum sheep, a special old Hungarian breed - wonderful wool for historical spinning, and amazingly well suited to dye them coptic black, since the wool is already almost black. With all these things together and stuffed into a few days only, it's no wonder that my brain sort of ran on stand-by on Monday and still during part of yesterday, also an indicator that it was a good conference.

Socialising, learning about stuff, getting new and weird ideas, and carrying home material for textile works - have I mentioned already that I love conferences?