Monday, 30 September 2013

There are things on the internet...

... that you would not expect. Well, me, at least.

Newest case in point? Old Bailey Proceedings.

Old Bailey is the central criminal court in Britain, and has been active since the 16th century. The court proceedings from 1674 onward are published, and they are also digitised and put online as a fully searchable repository.

You can go to the project website here, where you can learn more about what is digitised and how to use the search functions. And then, of course, browse through the records... Use for non-commercial purposes is free of charge, by the way, too.

This is one of the reasons why I love the internet. So much.

Friday, 27 September 2013

What is the most important thing?

I have been invited to give a one-hour lecture about archaeological textiles (soon, oh-so-soon), and I have all the freedom you can imagine in choosing the focus topic. Which is nice... but also not helping, as there are so many things that are important, or can be seen as important, or are so closely interconnected to each other that one could talk hours about them.

So the question I've been asking myself is: What is most important? What is the thing to tell people (students with no prior knowledge about archaeological textiles) about the world of textile archaeology? What does one really need to know, even if one knows nothing else at all about medieval or historic textiles?

If you had to pick one single thing as the most important message about textiles and textile production in history and archaeology - what would that be?

Your input would be very, very welcome while I go on to wrack my brains. (With coffee support. I think I need coffee now.)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Reading the correct version of instructions... helps.

There are a few never-ending things in my life. The Neverending Spinning Experiment, for instance. Or the Neverending Quest for a Publisher for the English Version of my thesis (though there is some movement on that front recently, I have not given up!)

Now, I'm thinking of adding one more item to the list: the Neverending Skew Socks. Skew is a pattern that was published in Knitty back, oh, about four years ago.

It clicked with me straight away. Now, I'm not a big knitter, and I'm not fast, but I like socks. So I ventured out to knit me a pair of Skew socks... and found, quite quickly, that they do not fit my foot. At all. My instep is way too high for them as written.

However - I wanted those socks. Really badly. So I ripped back and fiddled and thought and measured and math-ed some and then some more, and at last I came up with a method that worked. I knit a pair of socks and placed the instructions to the side - for later use.

Time passed, our vacation came up, and I wanted to take some knitting - something small, half-mindless, and nice. I typed off the pattern and took a ball of sock yarn. I knit and knit... and there was that bit in the pattern where I wondered, huh, that looks a bit weird... but I knit on.

Back home, I found that I had skipped into the wrong line when typing the hand-written pattern into the computer. So I ripped back... both socks (two-at-a-time magic loop). Quite a bit. And I knit that part again... correctly, this time. And progressed into the part that I had had almost finished before.

Then I proceeded into the heel part. I knit a bit, and then some more, and then some more... but not much more before I realised that something was decidedly wrong. I was missing stitches. Not only 6 stitches (as before) - this time, it was twenty of them. Now, 20 stitches at sock gauge... that's a lot. A freaking lot.

I went to look for the missing stitches. Had I skipped a section when copying the pattern? Nope. After a goodly while of checking, I found it... I had written a sequence of pattern lines into my hand-written notes, marked them and smeared something like "This!" at their side... but not crossed out or corrected the old version. The old version that had, you guessed it, 20 fewer stitches. And when copying the notes, I had not looked beyond the valid-looking set of instructions...

So the next step in my Skew journey: Correct my digitised instructions, print them out again, and rip back both socks (again, gah!) to where the mini-gusset increase starts. Sigh. The Neverending Skew Socks. If only they weren't so funny...

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

More exciting stuff.

I have sung its praise before, but it is time to do it again: EThOS - the "Electronic Theses Online Service" offered by the British Library. They basically list all the Theses of Britain, and as many of them as possible are downloadable. For free (you just need to register with them). It's even possible to order them on CD/DVD or as printout, though then they are obviously not free anymore, but will cost a bit to cover for material, time and postage. (If you are a multi-tab opener like me: resist the temptation. Downloads and links don't work properly when opened in a new tab, and the back button is not recommended for use; you'll need to click on "search results" or "order history" to go back to your lists. The site works smoothly that way, though.)

And there's more good free info stuff from Britain - meet the Portable Antiquities Scheme. It's a scheme trying to encourage members of the public from England and Wales who have found archaeological objects to register them in an open database. It's mostly metal objects, and there are very many of them - among it pins, needles, buckles, and spindle whorls. The search function is nice and works quite well, and there are additional filters to narrow down on item groups.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Things are developing.

While the garden slowly goes into Autumn Mode (less flowers, more seeds - which also brings more birds), things in the house and in my brain don't. Well, there might be more craving for hot chocolate (or normal chocolate), but otherwise there is no rest for the wicked notoriously curious.

One of the developing things: Plans for the next Textile Forum. Yes, I know, I haven't wrapped up the last one yet - but still. Another one is a joint project with three other people, and it is sort of an offspring of the eternal Spinning Experiment. More is to come soon, and it will include the possibility for spindle spinners to again join in some research. (It will possibly also include me becoming a bit more active on Ravelry.)

In other news: Cathy has thoughts about Neanderthals and clothing, as well as a linky bit to a nalbinding article in a journal on her blog.

There has been a textile find (link goes to a German newspaper) from 12th century in a German church as well - I hope that we'll get a more detailed account about that soon, too!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Germany has done it.

Germany has done it again - elections are over, and "the black party" (CDU/CSU) are firmly in the saddle. Not the party I'd have wanted most at the steering wheel - but at least the FDP (sort of the blacks in disguise, and with more capitalism on their flag) and AfD (that weird new party who thinks stuff would get better, and cheaper again, with YET ANOTHER CHANGE OF CURRENCY - hello? You know how the state made money in the Middle Ages? Right. With changes of old currency against new. Because things never get cheaper when you get new money) are out of the equation. Whew.

So now we will sit and wait to see who is going to be in coalition with the black party... green? red? or the other red? (And why do we have two red parties - the SPD and the Leftists?)

Sorry for  going all politicky - I'm not such a politics person usually, but very occasionally I do feel the need for some of it. Tomorrow: back to the important stuff again. Well. The other important stuff. Because even if I don't talk about it much... I think that democracy and being able to elect your country's leaders is something very, very important. The system has its flaws, but we could be worse off - and I'll try to do my little part in keeping it a democracy.

(Very belated blog post due to posting issues - I was convinced that it had worked, but obviously it did not...)

Friday, 20 September 2013

There should be a law.

One of the topics in the Forum this year was embroidery - a lovely topic. It was also a wonderful and really fascinating piece in the focus of the paper. The only unfortunate bit? The piece (an embroidered late antique tunic from the RGZM Mainz) had been conserved and placed onto a stand in the main exhibition so that the back of the embroidery is not accessible - and there are no photos of the back.

Now, if you are an embroiderer, you will know that the frontside shows the picture and the backside tells the story. Which stitches were used? In what direction were they worked? How were starts and stops (or larger gaps between similarly coloured batches) handled? Was the worker sloppy or neat? Which parts were worked first? All this... discernable only from the backside.

So I will repeat the There-should-be-a-Law thing that I posted already ages ago - I mentioned it at the Forum, and there was general agreement, by the way.

There should be a law that makes anyone writing about an embroidered piece to post at least three good quality photographs, showing a) the complete piece with measurements given in the text; b) a close-up (or several) of a detail, showing all the stitch techniques and materials used on the piece, together with a ruler or other size indicator on the photo; and c) a close-up of the back side of exactly these said details, also with a size indicator on the photograph.
Because it's the backside that tells the story, and the detailed view that makes it possible to listen to that story.

Now we only need to make it a real law. Any helpful suggestions on that?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Back to normal.

There I am, sitting back at my desk, the cat sleeping peacefully in her bed beside the desk, reams of papers spread over it (as usual), and a long to-do list waiting to be reduced to a more manageable size.

But I also have the Contraption with a silk warp on it (the Forum saw me finish the woolen band that was on it before). My lovely colleage, after years of softly prodding me, finally got me to dye something by myself, so now I have "smurf hair" - indigo-dyed wool that sort of happened to fall into the dye vat after our experiment was done. (How could that have happened? However would a bunch of textile people, confronted with a still healthy indigo vat, ever think of randomly tossing fibery things into the vat? I cannot imagine.)
There's also some blue-dyed linen thread (and I'm planning to look into that a little more, in the future). And a cuddly toy bat* (which is in want of a little scarf, I think - possibly a blue one). There's the distaff with hemp and the in-hand spindle that I finally found some time to work during the Forum. There's a rather crazy fingerlooped braid with a cross-shaped cross-section.

There's some more books, too - my own book is back in stock at my store, and the Forum proceedings book is also available now.

For today, though, I will try to resist the call of the smurf hair (spin me! spin me!) and instead get busy with more writing work. Because that's on top of my list... for now.

* The area around the lab is one of, if not the one, biggest living quarters for bats in Europe. Several thousands of bats live there, and when night falls, you can do bat-watching. Somehow, the bat became the inofficial mascot of this year's Forum... which, accordingly, led to a bat-buying binge.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

I am back home again.

I have returned back home - back to bad weather (today it's raining hard), back to my comfy desk, and (of course) a large stack of stuff to deal with, such as the accumulation of mail both electronic and physical.
The next days will thus be dedicated to getting back up to date (and speed). You, however, will probably want to know how the Forum went... and I can tell you: it was fantastic.

There was a really nice bandwidth of papers, and our new format of paper and corresponding practical unit has met with much approval and made our Forum the most productive one that we had yet. We will definitely stay with this format!
We had a go at loopbraiding, reconstructing late antique underwear, and there was some weaving being done; our resist dyeing experiment took place (with results that are partly making me happy and partly making me wish we'd had some more time beforehand for testing things), and embroidered tunics from late antiquity were looked at and the technique reconstructed. The lab made it possible for us, in addition to the planned practical units, to have an impromptu experiment take place, researching the different outcomes of pressing fabrics into clay pots.

The forum was one full week stacked to the brim with ideas, tries, techniques and textiles. It made me very, very tired but also extremely happy - and even though the papertrail of this year's event has not been cleared yet, I am already looking forward to the next one!

Monday, 2 September 2013

This blog is taking a little break.

Yes, again. This time it's not due to me having gone off to have fun somewhere else and having no time to blog, it's because - oh.

This time it's due to me having gone off to have fun at the Textile Forum. Though it's working fun, this time, and I will have no time to blog because of that. If you want to come and make sure that I will be both working and having fun doing it (the best kind of work), you can stop by and join us for a day - we have day passes. The conference day will start with a paper presentation at 10 in the morning, and day passes are 15 € each.

After the Forum, there will be a few days to finish off our experiment documentation and plan ahead for the times to come, and then I'll be at the Wissenschaftsmarkt in Mainz. You will find me in the tent "Umwelt und Info" together with some colleagues, showing the possible imitation methods for byzantine textiles. The Wissenschaftsmarkt is on the weekend September 14/15, so if you are in the region, make sure to stop by - it's said to be a big thing!

So your regular scheduled blogging will return on September 18, which leaves me a bit of time to recover. Have a good time until then!