Friday, 28 June 2013


For years now, one of the almost forgotten techniques that are dear to my heart is (filet) netting. If you've seen one of those dainty, almost-nonexistent hairnets in the medieval part of a museum exhibition? Those are made by netting.

Contrary to what some people think (and some write), this is not the knot and the technique used for making fishnets. It's a different tool, a different method, and a different result - fine, small-meshed nets that can be used as hairnets as is or embellished with embroidery.

To keep the technique from dying out, I've tried to do my part - I sell the filet needles (replicas after a find from 14th century London), I demonstrate netting, and I teach the technique. Since many visitors do not know what that peculiar double-eyed needle is for, I usually place a finished hairnet close to the netting needle in my stall.

And occasionally, I will get The Question. The Question is a variation of "Do you make these for sale?" or "How much is such a net?" and is hard to answer - because most of my demonstration hairnets are ones that I used to try out a new technique, or material, or embellishment (like the ones with the pearls). Some of the work time was also clocked during demonstrations or at events, and you never work full speed on events, due to all kinds of distractions. That means that even though I recorded the time needed, it's not the realistic time for making one simple full net with suitable material, in the surroundings of the home workshop.

Netting needle eyes.

This has happened more often lately, so I have set out to do exactly that: Make a reference net of sturdy, white silk thread, in 4 mm mesh, aiming for the finished measurements of the late 13th century hairnet from London. I have started out yesterday, and I've about finished the crown part - next will be the interesting bit of doubling the number of mesh. (This, together with the start, is one of the fiddly bits in making a hairnet in the round.)

The clock is running. A hairnet, let me tell you, is not a thing made in an hour or so... it takes its sweet chunk of time. I'm not sure on whether it will be saleable, as it is - I have been pondering some alternatives to making it completely by hand, in order to offer a more affordable variation, but that will need some more planning.

If you have considered getting a hairnet, or have made one yourself, I would be happy to hear your input - such as how much you would be willing to pay for a (completely handmade) net, or how long it took you to make yours. Cheers!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

I only look into them for the piccies.

I will admit it: I'm one of those who only look into books for the piccies. Well, old books, that is. While I can read Middle High German well enough to get most texts once they are transcribed and can read some very little Middle English (and thank you, Chaucer, for your tweets!), I have yet to read a manuscript in its original state.

Every time I run across a digitised manuscript library on the internet, I do a little happy dance (yay! More accessible manuscripts, and more manuscripts that will be there for posterity even if something dire happens - remember the archives at Cologne?) and then... I do a search.

I look for the search terms "spindle" and "wool" typically, both in English (if there is an English archive version) and in the archive's native language. Sometimes I'm lucky, other times I'm not.

I was not lucky in the St. Laurentius Digital Manuscript Library from Lund - but if you are looking for pics of nice medieval manuscripts, with pretty initials, you will really like this page. There's 64 digitised manuscripts from the 9th/10th century to the 16th century, and they are worth a look if only for the initials. (At least that's what I think.)

While I'm at links to libraries online: Umeå University has rare old books digitised as well, accessible via their "special collections" page. It was very slow for me, but if you are looking for an old print - you might get lucky there.

Oh, by the way: There is a lot of work still to be done on the Cologne archive material - the city has an info page about the damages and the work being done here (German only, but there's pics).

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Food, Games, Old Norse, and Daleks.

First of all, food: There's a new transcribed recipe on Medieval Cookery, so if you've always wondered how you should cook your Bruet of Almayne - here are several options.

Good food is one of the ingredients for a nice evening of games with friends - if you are looking for a nice medieval-style game board for backgammon and nine men's morris, take a look at Niklas' latest blogpost (in German, but there are pics).

If you're rather looking for a more intellectual pastime, maybe you would prefer to learn the language of the Vikings? There's a new book out there to teach you Old Norse and Runes, with a second volume for deepening your knowledge and reading skills forthcoming soon. (You can also look at samples from the book here.)

Speaking of books and Vikings, Marianne Vedeler has a new book coming out titled "Silk for the Vikings". It's available for pre-order at Oxbow books.

And if this has totally stressed you out now, and you need to relax, the Daleks will help you:

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

And where's my coffee?

Today it's getting back on track - there are quite a few things lined up for me to do from before Herzberg, even though I still feel like I could sleep all day and then some. With no proper clue as to why - yes, it was a little less sleep than I'm used to during the last week, but not that much, and I should have caught up by now...

Anyway, there's catching up to do for me. Plus some new things  - several people, by now, have asked me how much a medieval hairnet made in filet technique would be. It has been a while since I've made the last one, so I could not give a really good answer... looks like it's time for me to net again and do the maths for a net price (haha).

First thing today, though, is slug through my emails and then set down to do some reading... I have been sent things to proofread. And they have a deadline...

Monday, 24 June 2013

Back home.

I'm back home from the event, which was a truckload of fun, a wild mixture of all sorts of weather (we had a bad storm though we were spared the walnut-sized hailstones that came down a few kilometres away), and lots of old and new friends. Oh, and delicious food. Lots of that, too.

With the stormy night and then a full-moon night both in that week, though, I ended up sleeping very, very late today (hence the late blogpost). The storm flattened quite a few tarps and tents on the camp meadow, but nobody got hurt. The little TGV held up, too - though I lost a wooden peg that connected the upright pole near my bed to the top beam, and consequently spent about an hour holding it up myself before the wind had calmed down enough so I could make an emergency construction with the two poles that usually hold up the awning. This action was followed by some creeping through the tent to take care of stuff that had become wet, and to check on the other pole, and then - blissful sleep.

I'm still feeling sort of not up to full capacity, brain-wise, though. Good thing that today was scheduled as being a day off, which I am very much looking forward to.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Tablet weaving stuff.

Time for some tablet weaving stuff! (In my next life, I will manage to get more time for tablet weaving. And for napping in the sun.)

First of all, a blog post about an Estonian shawl, 13th/14th century, with a tablet-woven border.

Cathy thinks about the Køstrup find, which also has a tablet-woven border. (There's a link to another post with pics in there, should you want to look at brownish textiles.)

And the final tablet-weaving-related bit: Maikki Karisto & Mervi Pasanen have published a book about Finnish tablet-woven bands, called "Applesies and Fox Noses". It's bilingual in Finnish and English, and if I understand correctly, at least a good part of the patterns are taken from original Finnish bands, including medieval ones. The book is available for pre-ordering here, and it's scheduled to come out on June 20.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Modert tech to learn about ancient dyes.

There's a new technique on the block that can be used to detect and identify dyes, for example in leather: a variation of Raman spectroscopy coupled with laser blasts.

Here's the link to the Chemical and Engineering News article about it, and if you feel so inclined, you can also read the original paper in analytical chemistry. Lasers! Pricey spectrometers! Madder dye! What is not to like? (Well, it's not a loss-free method, so there's always that - but colour detection can rarely, if ever, be done without sacrificing a little bit of the material.)

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Fashion stuff.

Fashion, anyone? Here are a few links for those of you who are in the mood for some more-or-less modern clothing (hey, it was all the rage just a few hundred years ago!)

Some Icelandic clothing, including a collar (modern-ish) and a hood (medieval-ish).

Anyone who has been looking at early modern clothes or fashion in Germany will be familiar with the Trachtenbuch of Matthäus Schwarz. There has been some work done with it recently, including the recreation of some of the items - there's a BBC article here and a blog post, with a video about the making of one of the outfits. There's more links in the blog post, too.

A prehistoric fashion show will be part of the Humanities Festival in London. (Here's the official press piece about that, with two pics - but no mention of a date.)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Last-minute preparation.

My list is written, the inventory is up to date, I have refilled and restocked what needed refilling and restocking, all the washing has been done (dirty tablecloths result when you use them for sorting fleece), and I have sewn a new headcloth to replace my old one which, after a few years of wearing, has given out in the place I usually wore at the forehead. I have five (smallish) sacks of wool for sale, my embroidery basket is all sorted out and cleaned, my sunhat is waiting to get some use, and I'm looking forward to a few nice days with doing textile stuff in the sun (or in the shade).

Now all that remains is taking care of some more odds and ends, including printing out some stuff, and then packing the car - which I will probably do tonight, as it's really, really hot outside these days. (So hot that our cat preferred to spend the night outside and sleeps in the cool inside during the day and most of the evening.)

It's nice that summer has come, though - and I absolutely enjoy having some strawberries out of our own garden!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Busy, busy.

Last week has been insanely busy, stuffed full with the doing of things I had wanted, or planned, to do for a long time. Not least of them my wool-display-making shenanigans! I also managed to give myself sore muscles due to willowing the washed, dried wool (yes, historical wool preparation can substitute a gym session).

This week is, normal-desk-work-wise, a very short one - it's just today and tomorrow, since Herzberg starts on Wednesday. So I am going to be quite busy wrapping up everything that needs to be wrapped up before Wed, packing my stuff, doing the last preparation for the two private workshops I will teach there (and I'm immensely looking forward to that, it's going to be much fun), and so on. The weather is forecast to be very nice, and I've already put "sun hat" on my list of things to take, along with a goodly whack of small and medium-sized projects that have been waiting for some attention for way, way too long.

I will now return to my regularly scheduled computer work... and already look forward to a few days without the machine, and with lots of nice people instead!

Friday, 14 June 2013


It has been ages since I have wanted to kickstart my woolmongering - I am in love with old wools, and even more in love with how a hand-made combed top looks and feels (and spins!). The Internet is full of other folks gushing about how a hand-made combed top looks, feels and spins as well. That taken together was the start of my offering handmade combed top.

The two wools I started out with were Rhoensheep and Racka sheep. Recently, I have also acquired two fleeces of Valaisian Blacknose, a white, longer-staple, very shiny wool that looks a bit like silk when spun. I'm offering those three wools as just washed and fluffed up a little, or as combed top. Now, hand-combed top is quite a bit of work, and thus it's more expensive than the industrially-made stuff, but it is something else to spin with really.

The only problem with my glorious plans of selling hard-to-get wools? My stall is quite tiny (as some of you might know), and the area for display is already full with all the other nice little things I have. So at first, I put up samples of the top and samples of single locks of the wool, but of course that is not the best way to sell quantities.Now I have finally gotten around to making a better display - the three wools from old(ish) sheep races, and I have supplemented them with industrially-made carded batt of Tyrolean Bergschaf and that ubiquitous "calibration standard" of the modern spinner, industrially-made Merino top. It's still being worked on (the display, not the top), but I'm positive I'll be able to finish it today. And if I can be really productive, I might even get around to shredding some of the wool that is below par to offer it as stuffing/filling wool... and that would make sack number six.

I'm also planning to offer a mixed bag with some of each wool in there, though I'm not sure yet whether I should add a bit hand-combed top as well, or just the washed wools; and how much would be a good amount. (Your suggestions, as always, are welcome!)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Textile Events!

There will be a symposium about the textiles in the newly renovated Rijksmuseum Amsterdam in October, with lots of conservators and textile historians giving papers and an overview about the collections. The event will be on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 October 2013, and involves curators and restaurators from the Fine and decorative arts department, the History department and external ones talking about the selection and the historical background of tapestries, textiles, costumes, kimonos and accessories, as well as about interior textiles which are used in the reconstructed 19th century style room, textile upholstery and 20th century sculpture textile.In addition, there will be lectures on the conservation, research, treatments and preparations that were needed for installation of the objects in the museum.

It does sound like a very lovely event, and registration is now possible via their website (where you will also find a link to the programme and hotel info). There's not too much information about how much medieval objects they have (and how much they will be spoken about in the conference), but my wild guess would be that the focus will be on more modern textiles - there is a lot of stunning medieval pieces in their collection, browsable (partly) online. (The English translation does not work for the actual data or the search mask - you can look for wol, zijde, katoen, weefsel, linnen to find wool, silk, cotton, fabric, linen. Or, as I did for the link, narrow down a timeframe via the advanced search.)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Furniture. And I'm blegging.

Writing a book can take you into unexpected directions - such as researching English medieval furniture. After hunting for it for quite a while, I can tell you that there seems to be even less material about it than about German medieval furniture (and that's not much).

So I spent the day yesterday partly in the library, hunting down books and checking them and checking out some more of them, resulting in a very heavy bag of books to carry home. So heavy, in fact, that I had the sudden urge of sweetening the load by buying some sock wool... sock wool does not count, right?

Today's agenda, thus, has more books on it - books that I need to at least skim to see if there is something useful in there. If anyone here has a hint on where to find a good, current book or article about English medieval furniture in the timespan of about 1000 to 1350, it would also be much appreciated!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Nothing to read? Let me help you.

I have found a nice alternative to keeping a gazillion tabs open - it's a "read later" add-on to the browser. So blog-interesting stuff (or "perhaps blogworthy") gets added into that list. Which is nice, and keeps the browser a bit more tidy, but has the downside of also growing into a long list... and that means it's time to throw links at you again.

First of all, is a collection page for all kinds of blogs concerned with archaeology/cultural heritage/museums and technology related blog, so it's a good way to get an overview about stuff that is happening in the archie blogosphere. They are collecting new blogs to add into their site as well, so if you have an archaeology-centred blog, it's double worth taking a look.

Speaking of overview: JURN is where you can search for free online e-publications. It says about itself: "A curated academic search-engine, indexing 4,507 free ejournals in the arts & humanities." It's basically running a Google custom search for you, and all the stuff it finds is accessible at no cost.

Via ancientworldonline there's mention of a new, open-access e-journal called "Living Past". While I have not found much about the journal on the page linked, there is a dissertations archive available in that same corner of the 'net, published in original language (most often Italian) and with English summaries.

If you are still reading, chances are that you will be interested in this as well: Working in what now seems to be called the "digital humanities",  sometimes calls for a programme, gadget, or other possibility to collect, process and analyse data. Bamboo DiRT is a collection of digital research tools for the arts, humanities and social sciences, and hosts a large collection of all kinds of... things for use in research.

That's it for today - have fun wasting your time finding exciting new stuff via these links!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Hello Monday!

I had a lovely (and sunny!) weekend, which was ended this morning by someone four-footed and furry purring, very loudly, into my ear. Which means something along the line of "Get up, lazy human, it's time to give me treats!" Being a good human, this is just what I did.

Last week's first try at using the pomodoro technique was interesting and, actually, quite successful, so I will be keeping on with that. I did appreciate the breaks much, much more (especially the lunch break, being longer than the long pomodoro breaks), and it made me realise how much time is spent by all those just-a-minute-breaks inbetween, reading just one post on facebook or taking just one look at this or that. So. If it continues in that line, I will be very content.

There's one modification that I had from the start, though: The original technique wants you to concentrate on one task during the pomo, from start to finish. My goal is just to work through the whole time, no distracting myself with something else, no taking illegitimate breaks inbetween - but switching tasks is allowed, as is finishing one and picking the next one. (No long thinking about which one to pick, though - it's a ten-second-thing, ideally.) That does seem to suit me, and work for me, so I'm very happy to venture on in this trial of the technique.

On the list for this week, by the way, is some more Forum work - it's time to look into all the offers we have and do a first draft of the programme...

Friday, 7 June 2013


Not so very long ago (as in just a few hours), I did have a different idea about what to blog on than semi-random work-related stuff, but it has miraculously evaporated from my brain. Which is, at the moment, a tiny little bit addled by having heard construction-type noise for all of this week, with the extra serving (as in: in close proximity to me) yesterday afternoon and today. (We're getting new windows set in, which is lovely and very nice, but obviously connected to some work being done.)

In work-related news, I will be hunting for evidence of medieval furniture in England. Also: preparing for two short on-event workshops that will take place when I am in Herzberg, and I'm very much looking forward to this. Also on my list of things (exciting and nice things) to do: get an overview about our paper and workshop/practical session offers for the Textile Forum and update the website. I have been drooling over some pictures already this morning, and I can tell you - I'm really, really psyched about this.

Finally, and also Forum-related: You can actually pre-order our first volume, "Ancient Textiles - Modern Science", aka the European Textile Forum Proceedings. It's a collection volume of the last years, and not every paper given is in there, but it's a very nice variety and a good spread over times, materials and techniques. We hope that it will be successful enough to lead the way to a second volume in the future.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Productivity aids.

Back in February (wow, it's been that long now!) I blogged about a form of to-do list that gamifies life. I'm quite happy to tell you that even though the productivity spike from trying something new has ebbed, and even though there are some things I'm still doing badly at, I have stuck with the game and actually get stuff done a bit better, or so it feels. (This is always hard to tell, I think. How do you know that you are more, or less, productive than you would be with another method? Or none at all? Unless you go from, say, 5% good use of time to 95% good use of time and stick with that over several months at least, it's pretty hard to say.)

However, it was time to try something new in addition to the list. I'm suffering from the same problem many freelancers do - very little structure in a given day. Yes, there's getting up, there's the need to eat something at some point, and there's the need to sleep, and to take a break. But otherwise, my time can be arranged quite freely.

While that can be an asset - for instance, being able to take half a day off easily in case of unforeseen stuff, or re-arranging for something that came up suddenly - it can also be a hindrance. I can do that later. I can take a break now. I can read now and write later. Or whatever.

So yesterday, I decided to try the Pomodoro Technique. You may have heard of it - it's actually really simple, even though there's a whole book been written about it (a free pdf copy is linked to in the article above, or in the Wikipedia article). You take a timer (any sort will do) and set it to 25 minutes. That's time for work, and nothing else. Then you take a short break, 5 minutes, before starting on your next slice of worktime. After 4 slices (or pomodoros), you get a longer break - 15 or 20 mins, for example. Rinse and repeat.

The intention behind it is to give some structure, cut the worktime down in manageable slices that make it easier to concentrate and to tackle things that seem daunting, and provide enough breaks for recovery. It might work well, or it might not, but I'm giving it a go. After all, the worst that can happen is that I am not going to stick with it as it won't help. Should you be curious now and also want to try it, here's a link to several free timers intended especially for the technique - and there's lots more suitable on the ol' Interwebz.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Wash it away!

Somehow, these last few months have been more crazy and subjectively much shorter than they should have been. Life is, somehow, crazy - even though there is not that much going on (or at least that's what I tell myself). However, my to-do list is growing faster than I can cut it down to size again, there's workmen in the house this week to fix some windows (consequently making some noise, that's not helping), and I'm sadly behind on my reading. My day needs more hours! (Or my hours need more productivity... but I'm not doing so very badly, my timetracker says.)

Maybe I just need to wash my brain into total complete productivity mode. Speaking of washing: There's a Viennese living history group wishing to tackle exactly that. The "Wienische Hantwërcliute 1350" have a nice (German) article about washing in the late Middle Ages on their blog, and they got a colleague to make them a washing paddle according to medieval sources. Nice!

While you are thinking about clean, white fabric now (at least I am, sort of), Teffania thinks about white dresses that are not white dresses on her blog. White garments like these are definitely candidates for a good wash if you wear them on events with rain!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Today's random thoughts.

The rain has stopped. Thank goodness! Now I'm hoping we will actually see a bit of sunshine today, that would be really, really nice. Also my little half-drowned tomato plants will probably love to dry off for a change. As will about everything else.

Book-keeping is a nuisance, especially when you have to check how to file things... which can easily take much, much longer than expected. (Yes, I know, that's a TYCO.)

There are several partly-filled spindles lying on my desk, and I have no idea what to do with the stuff. Most of it is just little bits, but some are at least enough to ply them up... so the plied yarn can then hang out with all the other small bits.

My desk, by the way, needs tidying. Again. I wonder who always drops all that stuff onto my desk?

Not only the desk needs attention, though - I will need to clear half the room this week, it's getting a new window. Yay! (I think. I'm not yet sure I will like the clearing part, nor the cleaning-up part, nor the putting-stuff-back-into-the-window-end-of-the-room part. Also? There's a bookshelf rather close to the window. I will have to ask the window guys how much space they need.)

Monday, 3 June 2013

Still wet...

It's still raining outside, and by now, everyone and their dog and its fleas are hoping that the weather will improve soon. It would be okay weather for March, but not for the start of June! And all the rain has led to real problems around here, with floods coming to visit people in their houses.

Luckily, neither we nor our parents and family live in houses really close to water, or endangered by flooding. In case you have not seen pictures of the flooded places yet, here are a few.

It's supposed to dry up tomorrow, however, and then slowly become a bit warmer for the rest of the week. High time! And I guess that once the sun comes out and it's warmer, all the plants that have not died during the endless rain will go for an incredible growth spurt...

Now that I'm finished whining about the weather, here are some links for you. Cathy writes about the Lengberg Linens again; if you don't know her blog or have not been there for a while, don't stop reading after that article - there's more interesting stuff there.

While you are checking out blogs for their links - here's another one to take a look: pearl's blog (including links to the free online archives of Fennoscandia Archaeologia, Baltic Archaeology, and Czech Archaeologia historia).

Finally, if you're looking for an excuse to go visit Oxford in January 2014, the next Experimental Archaeolog Conference might be just what you need. The Call for Papers is already open and will remain so until July 31.