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!