Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Holidays!

2011 was a crazy year, with lots of good stuff happening, but also a few unexpected setbacks. It saw the start of my online shop, for one thing; way too little knitting; the death of several persons that I knew and the birth of several new persons in our circle of friends, plus a few illnesses of people near and dear that are mostly overcome, and we hope for the best regarding the rest. For me, it was a good year; not always easy, but what would life be without its challenges?

It was a good year, and so much of this is due to the people I know. Friends, family, dear colleagues - there is a bunch of human beings that make my life awesome by sharing a bit of their life with me. They make me feel as if I can never really fall, because there will always be someone who will catch me. And if I need a hand - I can be sure to find somebody who offers me help, and support, and pitches in with some additional ideas about how to solve my problem. They are people who will share their food with me, spend their time with me, give me a boost when it is needed and space for myself when that is necessary. I have friends that I can trust so much that it's no problem to show a weakness or to say that I'm down and depressed about something. And this is making me ridiculously happy, and wonderfully content, and makes me feel incredibly lucky. And if I had a wish free for the rest of the world, it would be that everybody could have wonderful persons in their life and really, deeply appreciate them.

And now I will have two weeks off, in which I will spend a lot of time with a lot of friends and family, and I am so much looking forward to this. I will thus not blog until January 10, when I will be back and hopefully totally re-energised by having had to eat way too much delicious food and having laughed enormously often.

So to all of you, wherever you are and whatever you may celebrate in the coming days:
Have happy holidays with lots of enjoyable moments, and have a really good start into the new year!
See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

No snow again.

The deliciously white and fluffy layer of snow that covered everything yesterday is gone overnight. I miss it - it really looked totally beautiful, and there's been way too little snow this winter.

In other news (probably more interesting for you), the Call for Papers for the Textile Forum is out via the newsletter as well (which means that the new newsletter list does work), and I'm still working on the thread thickness analysis. The system works, and now it's more or less only (hah!) a question of getting the data read in, formatted, and evaluated. Which means more work on that stuff - but work that will eventually yield more interesting data, and I am very, very curious to see if it will be possible to trace yarn unevenness back to influence of fibre/fibre preparation, spindle or if it's more or less a personal thing depending on the spinner again.

Apart from this, I'm wrapping up the last things I really want to finish before going on a break for the holidays - and as every year, I am looking forward so much to spending time with family and friends. Only a few days left! It's already the twenty-first!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It's updated!

We have finally wrapped up all the prelim discussions and clarifications, and now the Textile Forum homepage is updated.

As previously hinted and announced, the Forum 2012 will be held at the brand-new Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, a new research facility of the RGZM. Our focus topic will be "Metals in Textile Crafts", and we are looking forward to an exciting time with this very wide and fascinating topic. You find the Call for Papers and more info about registration here.

As of now, you can also register for the event, which will take place September 10-16, via our registration page. And please spread the word about the Forum!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Only one more week!

To be exact, less than one more week, since it's December 19 today already. Good thing my ImageJ macro now is working soundly, since there are only four days left to go before Christmas!

For those of you who don't know (or are wondering about my counting skills), I did not count today, and German Xmas starts on December 24. The evening of this day is when celebrations begin, and it's also the time when presents are given (and unwrapped). No waiting until Christmas Day in Germany.

And now a little bleg: I have been wondering yesterday about how widespread the tradition of baking Christmas cookies really is. I know there's some baking in America, and I know it's a firm tradition in Germany, but I really have no clue about the rest of the world. Will you let me know in the comments if seasonal baking is done in your place of the world? In exchange, I will let you know how to get really sticky fingers and a really sticky knife.

Buy a packet of marzipan paste, a packet of dark chocolate (or two) and a packet of dates (or two). I like to buy the "raw marzipan paste" with less sugar in it, and the black very sweet and soft fresh dates (not the drier Deglet Nour, which are the most common dates hereabout).
Cut the dates open and replace the pit with a date-pit-sized piece of marzipan. Press date closed again (the sticky fresh dates are malleable, making this easy) and dip the date into molten dark chocolate, covering it completely. Set aside to set. Enjoy.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Three things at once.

Or is it only three? Anyways, here's the news on three things I'm working on:

The Textile Forum. We are in the process of wrapping up the planning stage, and I'm already working on the update of the web pages so we can go live. And yes, that includes the call for papers, which will officially be sent out when the website is updated, and a brandnew registration form. Said form or rather its making and adapting, by the way, ate a good chunk out of my workday yesterday. Because I do basically not know how to do php stuff.

Connected with the Textile Forum, I have also finally changed my newsletter-sending software arrangement, which will hopefully end the weird formatting that newsletter recipients have had to endure the last few times. If you wish to subscribe to the Textile Forum Newsletter to receive announcements and the call for papers (and that's about all that is going over the list, so you won't be inundated at all), you can do so via this form.

And also connected with the Textile Forum, and the famous 2009 spinning experiment, I have further developed the method of how to measure thread thickness variations. The good news: Yes, it works, and will so very well. The bad news: I have to do some filter-testing and script-writing and macro-wrangling to really make it work, and my programming fu is about as nonexistent as my fu in all the other things that I actually don't really know stuff about but try to fumble my way through them anyways. (In German, I would call it "herumeiern", which is more or less wobbling around somewhere and not getting to the point, or traipsing around more-or-less-aimlessly. Just like an egg does when you roll it. And I love that word.)

At least it's Friday! So once my brain is in shambles due to too much pressure on the logic circuits, I will have all weekend to relax and recuperate.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

It might really work.

So after spending most of yesterday installing ImageJ, reading through its documentation, playing around, recording macros and trying to figure out how to get a clean, reliable output of data with actually useful information... I think I have figured out a way to do it.

Well, this still entails having to make a visual survey card with very good contrast between card and yarn and then scanning it in at a suitably high resolution before being able to evaluate the threads, but that is still much less work and equipment than would be needed to do it the usual way (which is climatising the yarn, then cutting it into small, exactly measured snippets, then weighing each of the snippets and calculating the tex value, and finally getting an overview of how regular or irregular it is), plus it's a non-invasive method.

So now I only (hah!) need to figure out a way to implement my ideas and make things nice and reliable so that they work with all the visual survey cards, plus devise some macros that deliver the data to files in a sensible way to make it all less work and more click-and-be-happy.

Yay. And this, by the way, again proves my point that whatever skill you pick up, you will eventually be able to use it for work when you are an archaeologist. Including basic programming knowledge.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hah! or not Hah!, that is the question.

I may or may not have found a way to consistently and quickly measure both the diameter of hand-spun yarns and their thickness variance. With no highly specialised tools for textile analysis.

Actually, with very few tools at all.

I will know whether I can go "Hah!" in joy about that once I have bent my mind around the working functions of one or a few picture analysis programmes... and then I'll tell you all about it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Still busy.

Things are still busy here, and a good bit of that is due to a bit of additional research I'm doing on the Spinning Experiment data. And totally related to this, we have figured out most of the things we needed to figure out for the next Textile Forum, and I will be working to update the website during one of the next days, and writing the call for papers for the Forum.

If you are already thinking about it: We will be in Mayen, Germany, from September 10 to September 16, and the focus topic will be "Metal in Textile Crafts". Stay tuned to learn more about it soon!

Monday, 12 December 2011

More. Moooore!

It's getting more and more dangerously close to the festive days, and I'm doing what I have traditionally been doing these last few years: I'm baking cookies - with help from the most patient husband of them all (who tries to turn a blind eye towards the mess I make of the kitchen) and with some additional help from friends. It's the traditional family baking (at least the bulk of it) that I took over from one of my Grandmothers, main cookie producer before me. And since the goodies are supposed to last for at least three nice afternoon coffees with family and maybe some additional friends, I make a good-sized batch.
The nice thing about typical German-style cookies for this season is that they can be made quite a while before they are supposed to be eaten, since they keep very well and usually get better with some time in a tin. So it's not a baking frenzy (at least  not necessarily) but can be distributed over a few weeks.

Plus there's Christmas markets everywhere now and rich food and hot tea or mulled wine, and much meeting with friends. Only the snow is still lacking around here!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Seasonal Food.

Seasonal food at this time of year, in Germany, means food like duck and goose and dumplings and rich sauce and red cabbage. (And usually eating way too much. Which happened to me yesterday evening, so my brain is not all awake yet, which means you get a food blog entry.)

Now red cabbage is an interesting thing, because it is called either Blaukraut - blue cabbage - or Rotkraut - red cabbage - here, depending on the region and the regional typical way of preparing it. And both names fit the food, red or blue, because the colourant in the cabbage reacts to acid or alkaline milieu by a colour change. If you prepare it with lots of acid, it turns red. If you prepare it with only very little acid, it will turn purple.

And if you would like to see that for yourself, you can do so here. Or do a picture search for "Blaukraut" and "Rotkraut" and see all those colours!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How far to the source do we need to go?

There are times when I am going "oh, sure, we can do that!" and then, much later, this harmless little phrase comes back and bites me in the butt.

Like it did in regard to the introduction article for the Textile Forum proceedings book which is under construction at the moment (I've been told that most of the contributors are writing furiously these days, just like me). Yes, of course Sabine and I can write an intro about the Forum - why it is what it is, what the idea behind it was, how it is supposed to work.

And somehow this little article, only intended as a short intro, is now developing a life of its own. Dragging me off into side aspects and luring my mind away to think about how much of a craft process series one single crafter should know, or should need to master. After all, there's lots and lots of work and skill involved in seemingly simple things, like a cheeseburger or a pencil. (If you're only going to click one of these links - click the pencil one.)

So here I am, pondering things... and expanding the little intro article a way beyond what it was originally intended to be.

And you know what? I like that.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I stumbled across an interesting link the other day - scientists expressing their love for their topic, and their geekiness, by ink in their skin:

There are some really amazing tattoos in there!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Spinning Stuff.

I'm delving into the Spinning Experiment data again, this time with a slightly different angle, and I've been reading a lot of spinning pages and how-to-do's and how to design your own yarn stuff yesterday. It's really interesting, and I get the feeling it's really different, goal-wise, from how historical yarns were spun.

Now if I could only find out why. Why is soft yarn seen as so wonderful today, even if it doesn't stand up well against abrasions? Is this our throwaway society? Or general wimpyness? Or different aesthetics? Hard to tell, unfortunately...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Things you learn.

There are things in life that you learn because someone (or something) teaches them to you (whether you want that or not). Then there are things you learn because you want to learn them. And then there are things that you just... pick up.

One thing that I picked up from my mum is keeping a small stash of things suitable for presents. These are usually smallish things with a limited price that we see sometime, somewhere, during the year and think "that would make a perfect present for X!"

So we buy it. And then we put it into the stash... and when we are thinking about what to give to X as a present the next time a birthday or Xmas comes around, we check the stash.

It's too late to help anyone this year, but that's a practice I can really, really recommend. It makes finding presents fun, it spreads the spending a little more (though we don't give expensive presents, as a rule, in our circle; it's more giving something small but picked with thought, or if it's a larger thing, we give it as a group), and it saves a lot of headaches and stress when an occasion comes up. Plus you have a fallback for short-notice presents that might be needed.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Time of Year is Near.

Every year, Christmas (or Yule, or however you like to call it) creeps up and then, suddenly, jumps into the face of unsuspecting people.

Should you be one of the many persons who have no idea what to give to your loved one who is into historical textiles, I have just added the possibility to buy a gift voucher to my shop - you can find it here (the German version) or here (the English version).

And if you are interested in the embroidery workshops on January 28 or 29, don't forget to book your place before it's too late!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Archaeology Dictionary

I stumbled across this link a few days ago:

archaeologywordsmith is a page with some kind of archaeology dictionary - so if you ever wanted to read about trowels, ditches, mottes and a gazillion other things, you can do that there. Plus there's a "learn a word" feature when you open or reload the page.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hard times.

I have this nasty (but quite common) tendency to tense up under stress in my neck and shoulders, and it can get really bad sometimes. And recently, somehow tension has built up again, sort of without me really noticing - so yesterday was high time for a therapeutic hot bath, some hot packs and before that quite a bit of stretching and relaxing exercises.

Even though working at the computer is not the best thing to do with tense muscles, it can sort of help relax with some really brilliant do-as-you-watch videos on youtube. So just in case you have the same tensioning tendencies, here is one exercise vid that I really liked yesterday.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I'm still waiting for the invention of an automatic paperwork handling machine. Or something like that.

Like... an instant secretary, maybe? I'd really like an instant secretary. That would come in so, so handy. It would mean I had someone to do that heap of typing that is waiting for me and the hundred and fifty small and more or less annoying other tasks that are not yet done.

Oh well. If anyone knows where to get an instant secretary... please tell me.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Back home.

Prague was wonderful - it is a delightful city, and it was absolutely bustling. There were interesting-looking christmas markets too, but I had no time for them (unfortunately), since I spent almost all the time not needed to get back to the station with visiting my colleague. I didn't even manage to eat one of the typical sausages-in-a-bun that they sell there. Now I will need to go back there some day not too far in the future, to remedy that. What a pity.

Prague is not so large that you can't walk most of its interesting bits - it takes about one hour from the inner city to the main station - and it is full of tall, imposing houses with lots and lots of Art Deco. The food is ridiculously cheap from a German point of view, and public transport is extremely affordable as well. There's a wealth of museums (including a Mucha museum), cafes, shops, and so on, and I'm sure it would be easy to spend a week or so just doing the typical city-visit sightseeing stuff.

It was the first time for me to travel by express bus (which leaves from Nuremberg and goes directly to Prague, non-stop) and I was quite taken - it is a comfy way to travel, especially if the seat next to yours is free, and it is also nearly ridiculously cheap if you manage to get one of the super-saver-book-in-advance tickets. I can definitely recommend both - the bus and the city!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Gotta love deadlines.

Deadlines make life so much more interesting. Especially if you have a tendency to forget about them until a short while before they are there.

Thanks to my good luck, I got reminded early on - so I now have more or less plenty of time left to write my article (another one about the spinning experiment, but with slightly different detail information). Though today and tomorrow will sort of not be spent working on the article, at least not much, since I'm off to Prague castle to look at textiles and meet with a dear colleague there.

Though I am planning to get some reading for the article done during the journey. And since I'll be away until tomorrow, there will be no blog post. Here, at least, is a link to the photogallery of Prague Castle.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, sf writer, died of a stroke on Monday. Locus online has an obituary, and I found out about it via ADM's blog post.

Anne McCaffrey was the writer that first made me really realise how different it is to read an English novel in the original from reading its German translation. I bought my first McCaffrey book - one from the Brain/Brawn series - on a bicycle holiday with my parents, and I loved it. With another of her books, I found that the German translation had lost all the appeal that came with her style of writing... and that convinced me to read books by English-language authors in the original, no matter what.

Then, for a while, she was my favourite author. I was in my teens, and her stories were just what I wanted: tales of love and conflict and glorious partnerships (between humans and dragons, humans and human-ish starships, humans and a living planet, and humans and humans). And all of them with a sort of happy ending guarantee. That was back in the days when it was not so easy to get your hands onto English language books in Germany, and I ordered them in via our local bookshop. With a considerable markup on the cover price in that procedure, I left quite a bit of money there.

Over the following years, my tastes gradually changed and evolved, and other authors took first place in my personal ranking. I stopped buying new books she wrote, instead turning to other tales - not so much guarantee for happy endings, not so many obvious storylines, and vastly different styles. Today, I usually tell people they are "Badewannenbücher" (bathtub books) - books that usually have more appeal to females than to males, a kind of story that you take into the bathtub with you for comfort reading when you are feeling down, with a non-taxing storyline and non-taxing style of writing, and something you don't mind too much if a splash of bath water gets onto it. (And there's nothing wrong with bathtub books - life would be much, much poorer without them.)

My sizeable stack of Anne McCaffrey books is still something I look at and remember my teenage days, my discovery of novels written in English. Even though I don't read them often anymore, they will stay - for the occasional day where I need to get into the tub with a book, or a friend does. And because Anne McCaffrey's books are an important part of my own history as a reader.

Rest in peace, Anne McCaffrey - and thank you for your books.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Medieval Toys.

The Olde Yellow Press,, has posted a link to an article by Geoff Egan about medieval miniature toys. It's just a short little article, but hinting at the fact that some things about childhood just do not change.

And if you are not sure why I call them the Olde Yellow Press... click here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

That's what friends are for.

Last week, a friend sent me a link to a blog that I had never heard of before - with an article about why Indiana Jones is not getting tenured. Which he discovers when he comes back from yet another globetrotting adventure and checks his mail.

I can recommend reading it if you like weird archaeologists, Indiana Jones, non-weird archaeologists (do they even exist) or are involved in academia and tenure stuff. Or if you are feeling bored. Or if you are sure that you like the kind of humor I like. Or... oh, go and think of your own reasons. Or not.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Please help.

If you are interested in medieval material culture, you will surely have heard about the IMAREAL - an Austrian institute that did a lot of research and made a lot of publications about that topic. The IMAREAL also includes several helpful databases, among them the picture database REAL online - which you probably also know. (If not, you should. It's huge and immensely helpful.)

All this institute is part of a larger organisation, the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austrian Academy of Sciences). This is a rather large Academy - in fact it's the largest non-university establishment for research in Austria - and it's an important employer for scientists in social and historical fields as well. 905 people* including admin staff work there, and I have at least two friends who are employed by them.

However, this is about to change. There has been a "Performance Agreement" (that never bodes well, does it?) between the ÖAW and the Ministry for Science and Research in Austria, signed on November 4.
This agreement paves the way for a large budget reduction and, consequently, for the loss or closure of many demonstrably excellent and internationally acclaimed research organisations. With these, up to 300 full-time staff members may have to go between 2012 and 2014.

That's about one third of employees! Such drastic employee cuts are unprecedented in Austrian
history since 1945.  The current economic climate does not serve to justify this severity, and cuts on this scale have not been made in any other areas.
Since third-party funding totaling approx. 22 Mio. Euro was acquired by employees, who now stand to lose their jobs, further negative impacts are foreseeable.  This amounts to a sustainable destruction of knowledge and infrastructure. 

There is a petition online to protest against these budget cuts and the subsequent loss of jobs. The petition page linked is in German, but there is a full English translation available on the page as well, with a translation of the field names and confirmation email you will get (link opens .pdf file). It is even possible to sign anonymously, if you do not wish your name to appear. If you want to go directly to the signing page, just click the red button below.

Please help by signing and passing on the information about this petition - it will only run for 54 more days. If everyone who uses the REAL online database signs, they might be in for a surprise...

* This may not sound much if you have large businesses at the back of your mind - but for social or historical sciences, it's oodles.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

It's getting frosty outside!

And that is guarantee for an exciting spectacle of frost rims on spiderwebs. Like on this bit of spire sage...

... which is all of the blog post you will be getting for now, since I am fresh out of inspiration and need some more coffee before I tackle today's stack of things to do...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Pre-scheduled posts are something really neat.

Yesterday was a deliciously work-free day, since I went to my parents' house to help celebrate my Gran's 90th birthday. So instead of shuttling back and forth the bits and bytes on my computer, I was shuttling cakes and coffee and having way too many bites of my own.

Milestone birthdays (we in Germany call full decade birthdays "runder Geburtstag", literally "round birthday) are always something else - but now I can tell you: once you turn 90, you can really get a party on! More people stopped by or came for the birthday than I can remember for the last ones, and my Gran thoroughly enjoyed herself. And I did, too - plus I can now have lovely leftovers for breakfast...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Why you should always check the date.

In the (admittedly very small) team of Textile Forum organisers, I am the techie person. Which means that website stuff - making, updating, and so on - and mailing stuff is my job. And that, of course, includes the newsletter.

I have been using a small freeware newsletter programme these past years that is easy to use and generally very nice - apart from one thing: It has a tendency to mangle word wraps in the email. Now this could be fixed easily by some more care on my part (it's partly a dumb-user-problem), but I tend to forget to look out for that, and I have planned to do a newsletter as well in the future, so I went out to search for a successor to my old prog.

And I found one. It looked nice, it sounded nice, it installed like a breeze (since I now know how to generate a new sql-database and which values to jot down for the server), it imported all my addresses nicely, and it has a bunch of nice features that are just what I need. And it's open source.

However, I have now run into a few bugs that ... bug me. Nothing totally serious, nothing that I could not work around, but irksome. And hey, I changed from my old programme to get rid of irksome! Not believing that this irksomeness had to be there, I went to look at the documentation. And then it dawned on me... this thing I installed? Has help files from 2008. Last update of the thing was also 2008. I downloaded and installed a zombie.

And this, my friends, is why one should always (always!) check for: a) latest update of the thing and b) check if there is proper documentation, FAQ, and (if available) help forums before installing a programme, and c) check when the last entries on the help forums were. Before installing. Because once you have an issue with the rampant zombie on your system... it's too late.

Now please excuse me while I put that undead body back to where it belongs and find myself a live one. With proper docs and support.

Monday, 14 November 2011

New dates for embroidery workshops.

I have fixed new dates for the embroidery workshops - next counted work course will be held on January 28 2012, and the next non-counted work/picture embroidery course will be on January 29 2012.

If you are interested, you can find some more information via the links above - and I'd be delighted to see you there!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Textile Forum is in planning.

For those of you who are waiting for news regarding the next Textile Forum, here's some good ones.

We are planning for the Forum to take place in Mayen, Germany, in the brand new Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, from September 10 to September 16 2012. We also have a focus topic for the conference, which will be "Metal in Textile Crafts".

This is a wide topic that can include anything from metal tools necessary over the use of metal embellishments like threads or rings to the use of metal salts in dyeing processes and the role of metal corrosion in the preservation of archaeological textiles - so a huge range of techniques and materials that is covered by the focus topic. In addition to that, we do welcome other topics too (as usual).

We have not figured out all the organisitorial details, but we are planning to have the usual full board and possibility to sleep on site. If you would like to present a poster or paper at the Forum, or give a demonstration or workshop, please contact us at info(at), sending your name, address, and proposed title of your presentation/demo/workshop. This would help us a lot in the rest of our planning - and of course you are welcome to spread the word about the Forum!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flash, anyone?

I own a camera - a pretty good one, as I feel - and I like to use it. Which is good, since my line of work is made easier by being able to take photographs of stuff (including small stuff in bad lighting behind glass, also known as museum exhibits).

This, however, always means "no flash". Self-evident, right? Which in turn means that although my camera has a flash, I am never using it, and I don't own a real large flash (yet). Plus I only have a very rough idea on what to do with a flash. This is no problem for my work photography - but can be awkward for the other kind of pictures I like to take: portraits.

And yesterday, I stumbled across a photographer's blog who does have an idea of how to use a flash for good, soft, nice lighting to shoot portraits. And just in case you are interested in that, here's the link to the Tangents blog pages about flash lighting.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How Medieval is That?

Doc, over at Medieval Cookery, has posted an article about how medieval a given "medieval" meal is.

And you can more or less use his three points - medieval ingredients, medieval recipes (or techniques) and menu (kit) consistency.

Speaking of medieval or not-really-medieval stuff, have outdone themselves. They have actually posted an interview (which is more or less really a plug) with a lady making "medieval leather clothing". I am not going to post a link to it - but I will tell you that I watched it, and that I could not decide whether to laugh hysterically or cry into my coffee. Leather garments in the Middle Ages are something that is not easily grasped due to the relatively sparse sources, and most leather finds we have are from shoes. Let's just say that the things shown in that video are not medieval in ingredients, recipes or menu consistency.

Wisely, have closed the interview article to comments.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Go back in history!

You probably know that saying that goes something like "once it's on the internet, it stays there forever", right?

That is one of the nice and one of the not-so-nice things about the 'Net. Well, mostly nice, provided you don't have weird or compromising stuff about yourself up in there that you would like to get rid of.

One of the reasons things stay in the 'Net is the Internet Archive. That is a non-profit project to build an Internet library - to make sure that things do not get lost just because they only existed in digital form. Part of the Archive is the Wayback Machine which you may have heard of (timetravels in the 'Net!) and which I already knew, but I just recently discovered that there are  also texts in there. Texts as in scanned books in .pdf form: catalogues, how-to books, you name it. And that includes embroidery books and other texts about textiles. So a search of the Internet Archive may be worth a try!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Hallstatt Textiles - Conference and Exhibition

Regular readers will probably remember that I was involved in spinning for a reconstruction of woven Hallstatt bands last year. The project is now coming to its end with an exhibition and a conference. Here is the official announcement text:

On the occasion of a three-year research project on 'Dyeing techniques of the prehistoric Hallstatt-Textiles' funded by the Austrian Science FWF [L431-G02] at the Natural History Museum of Vienna both an exhibition and a symposium will be organized. In co-operation with the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, the Austrian Society for Textile-Art-Research and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands at both events, a colourful spectrum of research and art is presented.

colours of hallstatt |textiles connecting science and art
hallstattfarben | Textile Verbindungen zwischen Forschung und Kunst
Venue: Natural History Museum Wien
Date: 17th January to 29th of June 2012

3000 Years of Colour – from Tradition to Art and Innovation
2nd International Symposium on Hallstatt-Textiles
Venue: Natural History Museum Wien
Date: 21st to 23rd March 2012
Registration and further information:

Hallstatt in Upper Austria is famous for its prehistoric salt mining. Due to the conservation by the salt, organic finds survived more than 3000 years. Among them are the oldest dyed textiles of Europe, from the Bronze Age (15th - 13th cent. BCA) and the Early Iron Age (Hallstatt-Culture, 800 - 400 BCA).

During both the exhibition and the symposium scientists and artists will provide you with a thorough insight into the unique world of prehistoric textiles and their colours. It will be shown how prehistoric dyers succeeded to use the colours of nature for dyeing textiles and what these colours mean to us today. The last three years scientists investigated the prehistoric dyeing and textiles techniques, analysed the dyes and fibres of the prehistoric finds, collected dye plants, cultivated woad, performed dyeing experiments and experimental textile archaeology and produced replicas of Iron Age ribbons. By the archaeological textiles, by ancient dyeing and textile techniques, by colours and ornaments artists were inspired to create objects of contemporary art.

In the exhibition the various topics will be presented together with prehistoric textile finds from Hallstatt, the reproductions of the ribbons and the art objects.

The three-day Symposium will include lectures of these topics, an art performance and tours of the exhibition and of the textile collection of the Papyrus Museum. A social program will enable you to exchange your experience with an international audience in a relaxed atmosphere and will complete your own "Hallstatt Experience".
 I am sure it will be a wonderful symposium, and I am already looking forward to it!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Experimental Drinkology.

Experimental Archaeology is cool. About as cool as the Internet, I would say - there are so many questions about our history still unanswered, and quite a few of them are suitable for designing an archaeological experiment around them.

Plus it's absolutely exhilarating to try out things and find out things at the same time - even if the trying out and finding out involves lengthy mind-numbing and tedious work. (It's a scientific method, after all - you don't get only the fun of doing, you get the work of analysing too.)

And then, impressive things can happen. Plus a successful archaeological experiment is almost always of interest for the public - so it also helps getting people understand how varied and interesting and yet unknown the past is. Case in point? This article here, exploring old alcoholic beverages reconstructed from organic residue in vessels.

Here's to archaeology - cheers!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Praised be the Internets.

Internet is good. Well, since you read this blog, you will know that I think the internet is good. But sometimes, it comes back to me just how good it is - and then I have to say it again.

The internet helps me to connect with my friends. To find out when favourite musicians play somewhere I can go. It enables me to buy strange and useful things, like my new spinning wheel (yes, I have a new one). It continuously provides me with new programmes that are good to use and totally free for most private purposes (like Anti-Twin, a wonderful tool to find duplicate files, or Sequoia View, a programme that shows you how big a file is on your hard disk). It is a wonderful place to do research for writing and working.*

And it makes it possible to collaborate with people who live on the other side of the planet. All the way around, with no delay whatsoever, I can send things and messages and pictures, and we can discuss what is good and what is okay and what is not so good. And that, I think, is absolutely amazing.

*And yes, it also provides me with endless opportunities to get side-tracked, procrastinate, and waste time and money. But hey, that's the Internet for everybody, right?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Autumn has come.

All the leaves are turning red and yellow outside, we have greyish foggy weather, and the small birds are already checking out possible nesting places for next spring - it's clearly autumn.

Now is the time of beautiful golden light and roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate and tea with spices in it.

And the best time to make autumny photographs - this picture was taken in Bamberg during the long weekend.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Today's a holiday over here in good ol'Germany, so you are not getting a proper blog post.

Instead of blogging, I will be having fun and relaxing - but you might want to check out the open access journals that are still online for open access week, and there's a handy customised search engine right here, thanks to Doug's Archaeology blog.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Literature managing.

Books are just like pictures. They are lovely to have, wonderful to peruse, and a pain to organise. And it's immensely helpful to organise them - having keywords and tags to search pictures, and having keywords and notes to check whether a book was helpful or not. Plus a bibliography programme can help with citations - and save a major pain when writing.

There are several programmes on the market, the two best-known of which are probably Zotero (a free plug-in for Firefox) and Endnote (a commercial stand-alone programme).

Just recently, I have re-assessed Zotero as a possible alternative to my usual bibliography programme (which is Endnote). There are pros and cons for each of these two programmes, but one of the best comparisons I have found yet is this one from profhacker. So, even though my version of Endnote is quite a few years old now already - from how everything in Endnote is integrated in my workflow, I'll stay with it.

If you do not have a bibliography programme yet or are not totally content with yours, though, you might want to check out Zotero. After all, it's free - so it can't hurt to try.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Things happen, books do too.

The flip-side of my book-ordering binges from a while ago is now coming to gently prod me into the buttocks.

One thing I really love about the library where I get my books is the possibility to do easy and free inter-library loans. Now, since my topics tend to be rather non-mainstream, and since I then need to get a lot of books that are not in the local library, that is a real blessing.

Unlike the copies in the local archives, though, ILL means you put in the order, hope there's not a pink slip of paper coming back (always a bad sign - since it means that your request went through the system, was denied and now you get that on pink paper) and wait for your book to arrive. And that, depending on where it comes from and whether it was checked out by someone else before, can take a goodly amount of time.

So they come in, singly or with one or maybe two companions, spread out over weeks. And everytime one comes in... I have to go get it. Which is the case for today, which slightly skewers my schedule of things I wanted to do today into tiny and very irregular bits... but at least I will probably be able to have a coffee with a friend while killing the schedule.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

It's Open Access Week!

For those who have not found out about it yet, it is Open Access week this week!

Open Access is a model of publishing that aims to remove the paywall barrier to research knowledge - by granting open access to results. Now, if you've ever thought about getting an article via a portal such as ingentaconnect and were asked to pay, say, 45 USD for a 5-page paper where you don't even know if it will really hold that vital information, you will know about what "paywall barrier" means.

Open Access has its pros and cons, as every system has. But this week and for me, it has only pros - since the portal I just mentioned hosts journals by Maney Publishing house, and that house takes part in OA Week. You can find 22 archaeological journals on their page, and all the papers are free for you to read - no paying, no registration, no nothing - until November 4.

Also taking part, but only until October 30, is Internet Archaeology.

And finally, there's a long list of Open Access journals in archaeology on Doug's Archaeology blog.

And if this blog post is not going to steal at least half an hour from your life, I don't know what will...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

It's probably underspun.

One of the topics during the weekend that I had chats about was about wool. And spinning.

I had the wonderful opportunity to try out quite a few different spinning wheels, both in a shop and at the conference, and one of the things that sort of caught me was the expression of "twists to an inch".

Really, folks? Twists per inch? Who wants to count that high? Plus archaeological threads never give the twists per inch - they give a spinning angle. For obvious reasons, because you do not untwist an old yarn.

A basic fact is that the historical yarns are much harder spun than what modern spinners usually do. A spinning angle of 30 to 45 degrees is quite common, and that is a lot of twist in a bit of yarn. The first time I was doing replicas of fine, historical threads, I was amazed at the high twist they had - and now I'm totally addicted to them. The soft-spun yarns that are so often to be found today are nice to wear, but they will not last for as long as a good worsted high-twist yarn. So if you are trying to spin historically and have a modern spinner's background... your wool is probably underspun.

You can measure the spinning angle by drawing a straight line on a piece of paper, then draw lines at some different angles (10, 20, 30, 45, 60 degrees) towards that line. Now you can align your thread with the first, straight line and see which of the slanted lines drawn on the paper will best match the slant of the fibres in your yarn. And if you are doing this, I'd be curious to hear what your spinning angle is in your "typical" yarn!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Here I am, back home again.

I had the most fantabulous time in London, meeting old friends again - two of them even took me on a wonderful tour to Butser Ancient farm and Whitchurch silk mill and Oxford), making new ones, enjoying delicious food and lots of lovely tea (and one very bad espresso and one very good latte too).

The MeDaTS conference was quite small, at a beautiful venue and mostly populated by audience members from a living history and reenactment background. And that, frankly, is the only thing of that whole weekend where I think it might have run a tiny bit better - I had sort of counted on more persons in the audience without that background, and thus my presentation was tailored to give that group an overview of who and what can be found in the field of living history. Nevertheless, people seemed to like it (and I enjoyed talking to an audience who laughed at all the funny bits), so I am well content with how it turned out. Plus I got to try out a really beautiful spinning wheel at the conference, and now know what I might need for spinning high-twist, fine yarns on a wheel.

The rest of my time in London was spent sightseeing and doing a little bit of shopping - hanging out in bookshops, going to the Handweaver's Studio (to try out more spinning wheels), visiting the new Medieval & Renaissance galleries in the V&A, eating Nepalese food and British lamb roast and chocolates from Harrod's and sitting in the sun and laughing. I also rode the tube and several buses and walked so much that I feel I must have walked 20 cm off my legs. At least now my rather new shoes are properly broken in!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

London, I'm coming!

When you are reading this, I am already in London - and there I will be until Monday evening. Next regular blogging, therefor, on Tuesday (or Wednesday, if I'm really worn out from the trip). But if you are in London or in the area, you can catch me at the MeDaTS autumn meeting on Saturday!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Another Linky Post!

Recently, Gina of Gina-B Silkworks posted this really helpful instruction on how to unwind a (small) skein of yarn with no reel and no helper - and no tangles.

And today, while preparing for my London visit, I stumbled across the UK Textile Society. There's an event page as well as a museum list on their site, and they have a journal that does look interesting as well.

And finally, the posters from last NESAT have been put online, so you can download them and have a look. It is really worth it!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Writer's Block What?

If you have been writing stuff, chances are high that you have had your experience of writer's block. It's unfortunately a quite common thing, and that is on the other hand quite nice - because everyone suffering from it can do so in the firm knowledge that he or she is not alone.

Now there's gazillions of websites and many books telling you what you can do when you have it, how to get rid of it, how to find new ways to cope with it, and so on. But I just found out that there is also... an event about it.

Louisville, Kentucky, has actually held a Writer's Block Festival. That's... unexpected. Really.

Monday, 17 October 2011

I hate when that happens.

I am one of those persons who uses tabs in the browser window. A lot. I keep tabs open to remind me of things, to check things out later, to blog about them one of the next days, to have something handy to look up that I suspect I will need later that day or tomorrow, and so on.

I try to keep the tab flood down and under control, and mostly I don't need more tabs than fit in one row once across the screen on my computer. (Though occasionally, there will be much more of them. For a while.) I have tried other methods of working with fewer tabs, or getting organised in a different way, but this one just suits me best. I have that nasty habit of forgetting about bookmarks, for example. Or forgetting to actually get back to those "to read" lists that some add-ons offer, and they just grow and grow and grow.

So generally, this system of tabs to check and close down when finished works very well for me. But sometimes, Firefox crashes. Or there's a system update. Or I have a second browser window open by accident and close the wrong one first... and gone are all my tabs. I hate when that happens. And guess what happened today? Yes, right. All my tabs were gone (and miraculously, so has the browsing history of the last few days). Fortunately there was nothing utterly important open as a reminder - at least not that I'd remember - so it's not too bad. Still, I hate when that happens...

Friday, 14 October 2011

I'm tired.

It's getting really autumn-like here now, with snny weather and bouts of rain inbetween. Leaves are turning to yellow and red, the air has that smell of autumn, our car has its winter tires on... and I am really tired.

Some people get tired in spring. I seem to manage getting tired in both spring and autumn. Which explains why this blog post is rather late (I slept much longer than usual), and why it's not very substantial.

So instead of me writing proper and interesting stuff, here's a video where you can see the craziest harp player I know doing things that should be technically not possible to do on his harp...

Hint: watch his left hand...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Is it Thursday already?

Somehow, time in these last weeks has been rushing by in one giant whooshing sound - I cannot believe we have the middle of October already!

The English version of the shop is officially up and running now, with all items sporting an English text as well. A few pictures are all that is still lacking, and they, at least, are lacking for both German and English visitors. Have fun in and with the shop!

And if you are planning to participate in one of the embroidery courses, please do register for them now - I will only be able to take "orders" on this until Sunday, October 16, otherwise it gets quite impossible to plan.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Winter Lists.

If you are somehow involved in Living History, you will know about winter lists. If not, here's the short explanation: a winter list is a list of all the things somebody plans to do "during the winter", which technically is the time between the last event of one year and the first event of the following year. (In practice, it's often the week or two before the first event of the following year.) Winter lists usually contain a mixture of maintenance work and smaller plus larger projects to tackle, and are usually containing much too much of this.

And just like everybody else, I have a winter list. And also just like everybody else, I have this nagging feeling that it will mean a lot of work, and probably not get all finished - though a lot of it is small maintenance-type stuff, like "shake out and air sheepskins" or "wash and store blankets". And "sort and re-pack stock of goods".

And the first two things are miraculously already crossed off that list. I admit that I made it easy for me, since listing something like "clean and re-oil wooden eating implements" is really not that much of a task - but still... that feels really good.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

It's linky time again.

First of all, a hopefully helpful link to a free-access bibliography of textiles. This bibliography is part of the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles [CSROT], a research project founded in 1986 in France. Its purpose is to contribute to the critical study of the history of textiles, especially by means of research concerning its bibliographic history. CSROT aims to establish a framework, a "map", of the literature of textile history and to compile a general bibliography reflecting this history, and to disseminate this information among specialized textile, and other, researchers and the broader public. Its second aim is to contribute to a more critical understanding of the history of textiles, and of early craft production in general, by situating them within the broad context of social, economic and cultural history, and the history of creativity.

Their database currently contains more than 9000 titles, all searchable by keywords as well. Here you find an introduction to the Bibliographica Textilia Historiae Database, together with a search link.

Speaking of books, there's a new one coming out: "Se vêtir à la cour en Europe (1400 - 1815)". It is on special offer sale for 18,40 € until December (it will cost 23 € after that), and as the title implies, it's in French. The title does not imply that most of the articles are focusing on early modern or modern clothes, though; there's only a small part actually about the late middle ages. You can find a description and table of contents here, as well as a link to where you can buy it.

And if all that has not held you from your work for long enough, here is a link to a brilliant article on how to procrastinate by getting things done. This is sort of what I tend to do, so I really enjoyed reading it - and yes, it is a helpful strategy.

Monday, 10 October 2011

So you want to become...

... a textile conservator?

Then this webpage might be interesting for you - it lists possibilities to learn textile conservation, plus quite a few other things (like where you can find a conservator in the US if you need one). The site includes a blog as well as a bunch of nice "conservators at work" pictures.

At work is precisely what I should be at now, too - I cannot believe how those to-do lists grow when left unattended for the shortest while!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Almost done.

I have almost finished getting the English webshop up and running - almost all of the items have an English translation now, and I have also figured out shipping and handling prices for outside of Germany and outside of Europe.

There's a few last translation thingies to be made and a little fine-tuning to be done most probably, but if you are curious, you can drop over already and have a first look. Switching languages should be easy now - just click on the German or English flag.

I'm also planning to add hand-spun wool sewing/embroidery thread to the shop, though that will take at least a few days more (or to be more exact, until I have managed to spin and ply a sample batch and then figure out pricing for it). Plus there's another item in the waiting line, soon to be delivered to me and ready to go into the shop.

Good thing it's winter now

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Database Online

Today's blog is a short one, since you will probably want to spend your online time somewhere else: The Walters Art Museum has a new database online - under a creative commons license.

Their collection database can thus be browsed and the pictures used for non-commercial purposes - like private research. You can read more about the creative commons license here, and this link will transfer you directly to the searchable Walters Art museum database.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Back home - end of season.

Tannenberg is the traditional end of season for me, and is one of the two markets that split the year into the summer and the winter half.

In contrast to all the other years, though, when Tannenberg always meant that you would put on all your really warm clothes and swish them through the very red, very deep and very cold mud, there was not a single drop of rain this year. It was beautiful and sunny and really hot during the day (and not very cold during the night) and felt more like mid-September than start of October. There was even one guy who needed medical attention because he had a sunstroke.

And not only the weather was nice - I had a wonderful time with friends, sitting around the fire and chatting, hanging out and singing and listening to songs, eating delicious food, making fire with flint and steel (I just love that) and meeting lots of old friends and acquaintances again.

I also did the test run for giving small workshops on a market, and I will do this at least once or twice more before I finally decide on a yes or no. Interest was there, and many people told me that they might come, but actual turnup rate of people was not so high. That may be due to too good weather and too much else to do or due to a bad choice of workshop times from my side (at 3 o'clock in the afternoon), but the idea at least was very well received.

And now it's time to take care of all the things left to do here - file the quarter-yearly tax stuff, finish the English online shop thingie, read all the mails that arrived while I was gone, and prepare for the next things on my calendar. And since it's the winter half of the year now, it's also time to take out all the items of the gear over the next weeks, check and clean them, repair them if necessary and pack them away for their next use when the season starts again - accompanied by drinking large amounts of tea and sensible amounts of chocolate.

Monday, 3 October 2011

I'm still gone.

Hence - no blog post today and tomorrow (when we will be coming back from Tannenberg). Proper blogging will resume on Wednesday instead.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Oh Glory of Modern Technology (again).

It has taken me a full day, lots of reading of hints and how-tos and quite a few misunderstandings and "smash forehead against keyboard to continue" - but it seems I have now managed to get the shop website bilingual.

Don't do the happy dance yet, though - there's not all the translated data put into the shop system yet, so if you go there now, you will find a warning that it may not be fully functional (though I hope it will function) and quite a few entries of wares with no text at all in the English version.

And since I ran out of time before packing up for Tannenberg, this will stay like this until middle of next week or so - when I will be back and do things with it again.

There you go. One English webshop, coming right up. Soon-ish.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Off to Tannenberg.

I can be found at Tannenberg this weekend - we will be going there and setting up today, and stay for the full long weekend.

I can be found on the meadow where I will have my little stall with nice goods for sale - plus a very special new something: a wool preparation station, where you can learn how to process wool with combs or cards and use my tools for that. I am also thinking about offering mini-workshops to learn (or improve) historical handspinning techniques, announced via a blackboard at my stall.

If you are in the area, I hope you will drop by!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Oh Glory of Modern Technology.

I have the texts for the English webshop. I basically know how to implement it. I have made a backup of the site for some upgrades necessary for it.

However, I do not have unlimited amounts of time - since we're leaving for Tannenberg tomorrow, and there's a handsome list of things to take care of before that. So I will not promise that the webshop will be up in English today... I'll give it a try, though.

And now for something completely different:
There is a job offer up on H-Soz-U-Kult for a half-time employment - about Living History and its roles and possibilities, among other things. If you are interested, you can find the full job offer here (German language). I think it's a good sign that Living History is now getting its own, proper research!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I have joined...

I've been on Facebook and LinkedIn and Xing for quite some time now, and yesterday I finally joined I'm not sure anymore why I did not go there and sign up when I first heard about it, but probably I was intending to wait and see whether it would take off or not. And then I sort of forgot about it.

So I'm very glad a colleague on the weekend nudged me to go there again and sign up. The idea behind it really is brilliant - a place where you can put up links to your work, copies of your articles, your academical CV - and at the same time see what others do and follow their work. It feels like a mix between Facebook and Google Scholar for me.

I can be found here on - care to join me?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Now for the short week.

I'm back from having a brilliant time in Mainz at the RGZM - wonderful weather (we all hung out in T-Shirts), delicious food, delightful colleagues, and plenty of time to chat and demonstrate things to colleagues and visitors alike.

Speaking of delicious food - a colleague of mine is giving a one-day course in medieval cookery on October 15 in Bad Windsheim. You can read more about the course on his blog, where you will also find instructions on how to sign up.

And now it's time for me to relax a little and sort my things, since we are leaving for the next event on Thursday already.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Tomorrow in Mainz!

It's time again to pack up the car and spend some quality driving time on the wonderful A3 for me today. I am scheduled to be in Mainz tomorrow and on Sunday, for the portrait of Experimental Archaeology (linked page is German). On Sunday, the museum has a family day as well, and there is a special exhibition about medieval northern Nigeria (German page behind link).

If that package cannot tempt you to come see me, my colleagues and the museum this weekend...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

If you can imagine it... chances are high that the Internet has it.

I have just found out that there is a research magazine for graduate students - first issue came out in April 2011, and they are now looking for more submissions.

The magazine is called Chronika, is based at the University of Buffalo and aims to give grad students a place to publish. They are welcoming papers from all the US, submission can be made online.

If you want to check it out, go on to the Chronika page; they have a parent organisation called IEMA (Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology) that you can find here.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Hang on - it won't be long now.

For all those of you who are still waiting for the shop to come up in English: Work on that is in progress. I'm sorry that you have to wait so long, but I'm doing my best to juggle all the projects and bookings and preparation work and behind-the-scenes stuff that I have to do as well.

I hope to have the English version up and running some time next week, unless unforeseen mishaps and stuff happen. The basics have to be set up to let the shop go bilingual, which requires some updates, but it's mostly the texts and some test runs lacking.

I know that it's totally annoying to wait for something to happen, and that something takes ages and ages due to no discernible reasons at all - and I am really sorry that I have become one of those folks who let others wait and wait. But it's just not always possible to do everything at once, or even in a timely fashion. There's a lot of things that clamour for attention, and that cause shifting priorities again and again, leading to some things being postponed. Since I have experienced this on myself, I have gained a whole new level of appreciation for things happening fast, or soon. And if you have done your own website hacking and script-tuning and text-translating... you will probably know that it can be obnoxiously tricky and very much disinclined to going smoothly.

Well. All this was just supposed to let you know that I have not forgotten you who cannot use the German shop, and that it will be up in English.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

There's more building!

You will probably all know, or at least have heard of, the project in Guedelon, where a medieval castle is being re-built using materials and methods available in the 13th century.

Guedelon does seem to be a success, at least in terms of being well-known and visited. And now something similar-but-different is planned in Germany, called "Karolingische Klosterstadt" (Carolingian monastic city).

The project is to re-build the famous plan of St. Gallen, the idealistic layout and plan for a monastery. There's an official project website that does not offer very much yet, but there's one English pdf presenting the project idea - and some very interesting thoughts about how interpreters should be trained.

Monday, 19 September 2011


I have started this nice little project that is supposed to serve as a market stall sign one day. Wel, scratch the "little" - it's quite big. And I have only just started...

... embroidering.

I will keep you updated on progress - at the moment, basic maths say that I can do about 5 cm² in about ten to fifteen minutes. And I have not yet tried to calculate how long the full piece will take at that rate - but it will take a really amazing amount of time.

Friday, 16 September 2011


A few years ago, when I was sharing office space with physicists (a long and wonderful story), there was a website up on the Internet under something like ""*.

When you went on that website, there was either a black window with a red "No" or a black window with a green "Yes" on it. That was it. Nothing more - and still we'd have a lot of fun checking if it was Friday yet.

Then, after a while, the site was no more. But after another while... there is a similar page now again.
Not as black as the first one... but just as delightfully simple, and nonsensical, and nice to look up for that Thank-God-It's-Friday moment. Provided it's Friday, of course.

So... is it Friday yet?

* I don't remember if it was org, or net, or whatever. And since that page is dead and gone, I do not care, and nor should you.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Something new once in a while...

I have, for the first time in my life, joined a writing group. I was never a part of a study group, and I have never been part of a writing group if you don't count the collaboration things on papers and suchlike, and it's a new and somehow exciting experience.

And it already did work as in "helped me to tackle some part of DustyOldBookproject that I had been procrastinating on for far too long. Alas, I have not yet managed to write all of it, and I will probably not do so until the next check-in on Friday, because I have found that I need to do some more research on one bit of it that I found I needed to include while writing it. So all as usual.

I also found out, during all that reading and writing and picking up other bits and pieces for the same project that there is virtually nothing on the subject of medieval hair and hairstyles. Yes, there are popular science articles and "overview books" about hairstyles since the beginning of mankind to today, but they are about as useful for reconstructing possible hairdos of the Middle Ages as a costume history overview book is for reconstructing individual dresses. And then there are various "papers" of dubious quality that do not help at all (and are usually not about medieval times anyways) - and finally there's some writings that are so heavily into mysticism and symbolism and psychological stuff that may or may not have been connected to hair in the Middle Ages that they are totally non-useful for any practical aspects as well.

Which means that there is actually another field of study that has even less, source-wise, for reconstructing possible historical reality than garments. Gah.

Of course my secret hope is that you, oh readers, will now prove me totally wrong and tell me that there is this list of brilliant books about medieval haircare and medieval hairdos out there that I was totally too stupid to find.

I'm hoping very much, in this case, that I was totally too stupid to find it.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Yet Another Conference!

Snooping around on the message boards of, I found info about a conference on European Painted Cloths C14th-C21st (London, 15-16 Jun 2012).

The deadlines for the call for papers are already gone by, but the conference itself might be of interest. At the very least, it's a topic not encountered so very often, and I'm happy to see it gets looked at a bit more!

European Painted Cloths C14th-C21st
Pageantry, Ceremony, Theatre and the Domestic Interior

This two day conference will explore the use of painted cloths in religious ceremony, pageantry, domestic interiors and scenic art. It will focus on their change of context and significance from the
fourteenth to the twenty-first century exploring their different function, materials, and method of creation.

The potential for large sizes, portability, and versatility for religious objects including banners, hangings, altarpieces, and palls was the impetus for the emergence of fabrics as a painting support in Western art in the Middle Ages. The demand for elaborate altarpieces, church furnishings, and liturgical objects increased in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries due to changes to liturgical practice and an upsurge of religious fervour. The functionality of the works explains the survival of relatively few examples. Were paintings on fabric envisaged as ephemeral objects? There is evidence to the contrary. One of the most common forms of interior decoration for centuries, painted cloths have received less attention from art historians and historians than they deserve in part due to their poor survival. Often regarded as cheap substitutes for those who could not afford tapestries, their function has been oversimplified and their importance in  providing imagery as well as literary subjects has been underrated.

Scenic backcloths were once commissioned for court functions, part of an elaborate display of royal power and magnificence, such as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The same methods and materials continued to be used for theatrical cloths. The nineteenth and twentieth century saw a
resurgence in interest in the art form, as established artists, among them Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Picasso and later Piper, Hockney and Caulfield, took up commissions for the theatre and ballet.

The conference, to be held at The Courtauld Institute of Art, will be run in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum. Presentations by four keynote speakers will reflect the aim of the conference to bring together and foster interdisciplinary research between art and interiors historians, paintings and textile conservators.
Organised by Christina Young (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and
Nicola Costaras (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

14th century Bergen has become virtual reality!

There has been a project resulting in the virtual reconstruction of 1350 Bergen in Norway. If you can read Norwegian, you might be interested in the official accompanying page here. There's even a .pdf on that page about the basis for the reconstruction - brilliant!
If you don't read Norwegian (or don't feel like it) and only want to see the film, you can do it right here:

(or follow it over to its home on youtube, where you can watch it in much bigger).

Monday, 12 September 2011

Where to find me.

If you are looking to meet me for a chat (or because you are desperate to buy me a coffee), I can be found at the following places in the near future:

Tannenberg, the traditional end-of-season market, September 30 to October 3. I will be having a stall there and sell my usual stock of goods - plus if you would like to try prepping wool for historical spinning yourself, I will offer you the opportunity to "rent-a-wool-tool" at my stall.

Family day at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz, September 25 - I will be demonstrating wool processing and spinning with distaff and hand-spindle. If you dare, you can try spinning yourself as well!

The Embroidery Workshop - I will be teaching medieval embroidery in Erlangen on the 29th of October (counted work) and the 30th of October (split stitch and diverse laid-and-couched techniques). Booking can be done via the webshop (look under "Kurse").

Medieval Dress and Textiles Society Autumn meeting, October 22, in London - I will be speaking in the afternoon there.

If you are in the area, why not drop by?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Getting into the mood.

I'm getting into the mood for the embroidery course in October.

If by "getting into the mood" you understand "starting some insanely large project because I'm so much looking forward to the course because I'm sure it will be an insane amount of fun and I can't wait for it so I'm starting this now", that is. And yes, there will be pictures as soon as I deem a bit of it picture-worthy.

And I am having fun with it. I have decided on a stitch to use that I totally love, it's wonderful material, it's relatively fast to work. And it means I get to practise my mean material-calculation skillzz again.

And yes, calculating how much material you will need will definitely be part of the workshop. Also, for those who are interested in it, how much time you will probably need.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Archaeology pics and sexual insults.

Since there's not much to tell you about from my desk here, except that I'm busy doing all kinds of stunningly exciting things like my bookkeeping (argh!) and ordering an obscenely long list of books into the library from the archives, here are a few links to amuse you. And me, since I get to do some internet surfing first so I can find them.

Nice pictures from an archaeological dig, with German texts (old city fortification structures were found, for those who don't read German) can be found at the Schauhütte blog.

You can also surf to highly's place and learn how to insult a man who has turned down your advances (if you are a woman, that is) in late 12th-century French. Ah, time-honoured tradition of getting personal.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Call for Papers - Interpreting History through Costume

The Costume Society of America is holding their Western Region 2012 Symposium “Interpreting History through Costume”on March 17-18, 2012 at The William S. Hart Ranch & Museum in Santa Clarita, CA.

Their call for papers is still open until October 15. Here's the short of it:

The Western Region Symposium offers an opportunity for established Members and potential New Members to present Oral Research Papers or Research-in Progress, reports on unpublished research, new creations and/or practical experience.
Possible Topics Include: Designing costume for period theatrical or dance performances, films or television shows; Comparisons between recreated garments, or garments designed for performance, with actual historic garments; The importance of costume in the understanding of social, political & world history; How costumed docents enhance the understanding of museum collections & the visitor experience; Use of costume in non-costume exhibitions: an opportunity to provide context; Pursuit of the past: the impulse to collect historic dress; Using dress to create an historic character or personage for reenactment.

They welcome about everybody - so if that sounds interesting to you, check out the full call for papers on this website.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

More Spinning Questions

paantha said...
I have learnt to spin with a wheel and a drop spindle but I haven't yet got the hang of medieval-style spinning and I can't make my distaff work. :(
However, I do have one piece of advice for you, which holds true for all craft/textile teaching (and probably a few other things too). If you need to teach a left-handed person when you are right-handed (or vice versa) sit them opposite you and make them copy you as if you are mirror images of each other. My neighbour who taught me to spin was very careful to do this when teaching me to knit and crochet, so I do those right-handed (like I write). However, I just noticed that I spin left-handed, despite being right-handed, because we forgot to implement that when she taught me spinning...
Thanks for the hint about handedness - but I think that handedness might not apply to spinning that much. I am left-handed and very severely so, but I spin with my distaff under the left arm, and my right hand as drafting/turning spindle hand. And I did not really learn from someone, so it was all my idea to do it this way around.
That said, when teaching, I do tell people they should experiment which hand they prefer for drafting more actively.

Karen said...
I love spinning with a distaff. I have a long one which I generally use when drafting with a short draw, and a hand held one, that I am just getting good at using, that I use when drafting with a long draw. The biggest problem I had when learning to use my distaffs was keeping a consistant draft. My first spindle-full on each was very uneven. But it just took practice. I worried more about being comfortable holding the distaff than what my thread looked like, and very quickly my thread improved. I hate to spin without one now.

Good luck with your workshop.

Thanks Karen! Yes, I think adapting to the distaff can be confusing at first, but good to hear that you are also addicted to them now!

Arachne said...
I'm still struggling with the distaff, I've tried both long ones and hand-held ones. My biggest problem is spinning with really long fibres (+ 20 cm) but it happens with shorter wool too: everything's fine in the beginning, but after a bit the fibres become wound so tightly round the distaff that I can't draw at all. I've tried arranging the wool as if it were flax on the distaff rather than wrapping the combed tops around it, but it still ended up a bunched-up mess after a while. Haven't given up yet, though...

Have you tried winding them off a bit more from time to time? I usually have quite a longish bit of the fibre band hanging down from my distaff, and the longer the fibres, the longer this free-hanging bit. As soon as it shortens enough to let fibres come from very near the distaff stick, I roll it a little so more of the fibre band unwraps and hangs freely down. So maybe if you try to leave more space between your hands and the distaff, it might help. And don't give up!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Spinning with a Distaff

Thanks again for all you input on the headwear thread - and for the replies to the Spinning thread. I'll tackle the first two now.

fiofiorina said...
I use a hand distaff when spinning "Roman" and a long one for medieval displays. I still sling the thread under the whorl, as it made the difference between whorl falling to the ground and breaking and spindle falling to the ground and whorl surviving. For modern spinning I prefer working with the short Roman distaff than holding the wool in my hand. But that's me.  
I have had better experience with the whorl not breaking if it was not firmly attached to the spindle, since it can then slide off the spindle when it drops - the stick takes most of the impact, and the whorl survives. But if the spindle drops, there's always some danger of the whorl taking damage, whether firmly attached to the stick or able to slip loose. Key with spinning with a whorl only slid onto the stick is to make sure it really sits firmly enough so it does not just slip off and fall down from the stick during spinning. (Though mine have done so frequently, too, and they did survive.)

Lady Lamb said...
I learn to spin for myself with the help of some books and YouTube. I don't need to pass the thread under the whorl, and in case it helps you can make a small opening at the tip of the spindle. At events I try to use a distaff but this is my problem. I'm not used to it. I try to support it on my belt so it won't fall and my left hand it's free to grab the fibers, but sometimes I find that difficult. Another problem is that with a distaff I have some tendency to break the fibers. I don't know if you can give me some tip, or maybe I just need to get used to the distaff.
You have several different possibilities to use a distaff - hand-held if you use a short stick, tucked into the belt if you have a long one, or tucked under your arm. Have you tried to place the distaff in your armpit? If you let your arm hang down, it should fix the distaff firmly in place.
If all this does not work, or if you feel too distracted by learning how to hold the distaff and learning how to draft with the new arrangement, you could also fix it to something else and stand or sit beside or in front of it until you are used to the new method.
If you have a tendency to break the fibres, maybe you are drafting too slowly with the new arrangement?

Friday, 2 September 2011

From Headwear questions to Spinning questions.

First of all, thanks to everybody who commented with links or hints to medieval headwear on yesterday's post. I will go hunt all those things down and have a good look at them. And if anybody thinks of any more, please comment to yesterday's bleg - it really is helping me!

And today's post... is going to be something similar-but-different. I am preparing a workshop on historical wool preparation and historical spinning, and I'm very, very much looking forward to it. However, I have been mucking around with this and that and fibres and spindles for a good long while now, and my spinning skill was never acquired in the traditional teacher-to-student manner. Thus, I have learned many things differently. And I do not have good insights into what makes a switch to historical spinning difficult for somebody who has learned hand-spindle spinning the modern way. (If you need to brush up on the difference, the two most important bits in my opinion are that historical spinning uses a distaff for holding the fibres, and there's no slinging the thread around under the whorl before fixing it at the top. There's more, but those are two very common differences.)

Hence, I will make you an offer. Are you spinning with a hand-spindle? Have you tried spinning historically? Whether you are spinning historical or modern, I would like to hear about what problems or questions you have. Is there something you just can't get to work? Or something you wanted to try but cannot figure out?

I will try to answer your questions here in the blog - and use the material for my teaching. This way, everybody wins: I get to know common problems, and you will get an answer. And I will try my best to make it a helpful one!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Do you know of any... headwear?

After writing my PhD thesis (which will come out one day in English, I have not forgotten you - I am doing things towards it) I was quite happy to get going on some other writing/research topic. Unfortunately, though, that project fizzled out very soon in its career.

Then all those other things that will assault a freelancer and beg for time took over. Organising or re-organising things, getting smart about how to do invoices, keeping track of finances, sourcing goods that I could sell on markets, preparing workshops, flyers, business cards and so on. The decision to do a blog, and the time that went into it. Projects usually came (and still come) in clumps as well, tearing huge rifts into plans and schedules. And Textile Forum came into my life and took over for a few weeks each year (and will do so next year). In short, I did not get around to do much writing and research for the other book project that was still in my figurative desk drawer. And I sort of fell into a research hole.

Then came the opportunity to work again on that project. Let's call it... Dusty Old Bookproject, or DOB for short. I started, did some stuff, and ran against a wall because what I had thought would be a slight restructure and extension... was not. It needed a full re-thinking, re-working and re-structuring, and I could not see that yet. So I did some things on and off, but it really didn't come along very well. And there was still all the other freelancing stuff to be taken care of, which takes a huge chunk of time, continuously.

Then along came Exciting New (to me) Bookproject, and I suddenly rediscovered that research is such a huge heap of fun. Pure unadulterated fun in sitting in the library, going through books, taking up snippets of information and learning new things, new angles, new concepts. So now I am working on both of them, DOB and ENB, and instead of having a bad conscience... I feel good, because I am actually doing more work on DOB now than I did before ENB came along.

And I'm at a stage for DOB where I am looking for more material. More specifically, I am searching for links or books or hints on where some more extant headwear might be found. Date range is from about 500 to 1500, though I might narrow that down for the final book. Geographic range is Europe. And I'd be delighted if you could tell me of some, because just like the proverb says: Four (hundred) eyes see (much) better than two.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Good thing. Is it?

It's probably a good thing that I have been so eager to get some work done on the one big project that I almost totally forgot to blog - hence the very late blog entry.

In addition to being busy, and forgetful, and totally overdoing it with adding books to my to-read list (or at least to the to-check-for-interesting-parts list), I have nothing new to tell you. So instead I will leave you with this totally awesome flashmob video, because what can be more awesome than a flashmob with a harp?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Oh Yersinia. You really did it.

If you've been more than marginally interested in the epidemic called "Black Death" that wrought havoc on the population in the Middle Ages, you may have caught that there was a (sometimes quite heated, I gather) dispute about whether it was the Plague as we know it today, or something entirely else, or a mutation of the Plague, or a combination, or whatever. And I confess I was leaning towards "something else", too, just like a lot of other scholars.

But now they did it. You know, those archaeologists and other scientists? These guys that poke around in old stuff, messing around with our nice familiar concepts of history, dragging home old bones and potsherds and lumps of clay and textile and rusty metals? They did it. They found the DNA of the Bringer of Black Death.

And it's Yersinia Pestis.

Their research is published in an open-access peer reviewed journal (oh, we so need more of those), and you can read the whole article for yourself. Good old Yersinia. Wreaking documented havoc on mankind since 541.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Wool, wet. And dry.

Since I seemingly promised you wool pictures and Heather reminded me of that, here they are. All were taking during the test runs for a washing wool procedure (and the test run was, by the way, quite successful).

This is Rhönschaf-wool before washing, laid out on a cloth.

All the wool was pretty clean, as wool worn by sheep hanging out outside goes. And I discovered during washing that a lot of the darker colour is due to dust and fine earth particles hanging in the fleece.

And this is wooly magic happening right there. This is the wool soaking in rainwater, and it's basically cleaning itself. You see the little bubbles about in the middle of the picture? That is the result of a reaction between sheep urine, lanolin, sheep sweat and soft water. It's... soap bubbles. Which will remove a bit of the lanolin and all the urine and sweat, leaving the wool...

... nice and clean after rinsing. It's spread out for drying on my beating frame here. And yes, I have managed to wash a whole fleece's worth of wool at once, thanks to well-timed rainfall hereabouts.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Things that may be of interest (or not)

On a modern textile blog (catering to industrial production mostly) you can find some facts about linen (drawn from a modern linen producer). The fact that is missing there is that while linen has very high tensile strength - which means you can hang a lot of weight from a thread - it is actually not very resistant against friction, wearing through relatively fast. Still, it's an interesting list.

If you're waiting to see the TARDIS in a cathedral, at least in a photo, go visit highlyeccentric's blog. I am officially stunned.

HistoriAnn and Notorious PhD blog about conference etiquette and the job of a panel commentator, respectively. If you're going to conferences or being in the danger of moderating/commenting a panel, I do recommend these posts and their discussion.

If you are wishing to learn about medieval beans and how to prepare a bean dish, go read Andreas' recounting of a cooking test run (he's giving a seminar in fall).

But if that all is not tickling your fancy, you can always hop over to the Yellow Press of Medievalist Studies* and learn about medieval flamethrowers. Yes, flamethrowers!

* I realise that this may be a bit harsh - but I get their RSS feed, and that is just what I sort of think when all the flashy titles pop up. Yes, I know that much of it is the scholar's own fault. Yes, I'm doing that myself. I discovered a while ago and was totally excited for a time, but learned soon that their offerings (as always, duh Katrin) has to be taken with some salt. It's a service that will dig up articles and stuff about the Middle Ages, but they are not a peer review organ, and there will be outdated or disputable papers on there. That said, I still like to get the feed, if only to learn about medieval flamethrowers once in a while. And now this footnote is almost getting longer than the rest of the post.