Thursday, 31 October 2013

A new thing in the shop!

Finally, the photo is taken, the description is written, and everything else shop-wise is done. And may I present to you the newest thing on offer chez pallia:

- the little brother (or sister?) to the spindle stick you already know.

It's inspired by a lathe-turned stick find from York, made out of maple wood and in the quality you are used to from its bigger sibling. With only about 17 cm in length, though, it is at the shorter end of the spectrum we know from finds. It still is a beautifully working stick, fits about any whorl (thickest part of the small stick is only slightly slimmer than on the large one, with about 10 mm) and it is small enough to slip into your pocket for a project on the go.

I've given one of them a little test run, and while it looks a bit unaccustomed at first if you are used to the large variant, it does spin beautifully. Unfortunately, I have some other things to do today as well, not just spin...

There are a few other things I am planning to add to the shop, but this was the one most dear to my heart - and probably the one that will get you most excited of the new kids in the shop.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Good kinds of busyness.

I am busy writing and taking pictures and thinking and getting stuff reorganised in my brain. There are also things lying around on tables and floors, waiting to get sorted and put away, but they will survive (as I will) if I only get around to it tomorrow.

Just in case you are interested in what makes me so busy - three writing projects have come to a state of progress that makes me quite, quite happy (and means I have to apply my time and brains to them for a bit, too). There are another three, or four, or five depending on how you count in the wings, waiting - they shall have to bide a bit more time.

Some of the picture-taking planned for today is not for papers or other publications, though - it's for the online shop. I have a few new things to add, and if all goes reasonably well, I will be able to reveal them to you tomorrow. They are nice and exciting things, I think - and I hope you will think so, too!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Tape loom plans.

I've gone through my list of things that I might want to blog about, and as usual, the list is long... but not all of the topics make for a quick blog entry, or a link list.

What is in there of potential interest to you, though, is this: Plans for making a tape loom. They are from a magazine that was published a while ago, and then went through bankruptcy. It's a relatively simple tape loom, though not as simple as my contraption (which is basically a stick in a board with a holder for the rigid heddle).

If you haven't tried band weaving yet, but get the chance - give it a go. It is a really nice pastime, a rather quick way to get some tapes or bands, and since it's quick and does not use oodles of material, it is a nice possibility to try out some funky colour combinations, too.

Monday, 28 October 2013


I am back from taking my breather - just like every year, we went to the Spiel in Essen together with a bunch of friends. That is a fair all about boardgames, and we spent the days there looking at an enormous amount of games, checking out the rules of lots of them, having a still impressive number explained to us and played a few (at least for a few rounds, so we could get a feel for it). For example, we got to try out "Firefly - the game". If you just look at the game mechanics, it's a fairly simple merchant simulation with lots of bad things that can happen to your ship and your crew... but the game manages to catch the spirit of the series really beautifully.

We all managed to escape without con-crud (in this case, we non-lovingly term it the "Essen-Pest", the plague of Essen). We did, of course, not escape without games - there was an expansion out for "Flashpoint", which we currently play a lot. I also consumed way too much chocolatey stuff (if that is possible at all, that is).

If you are tempted now to go to the Spiel yourself one day, has an Essen FAQ here. I am quite exhausted, gaming-wise, after the four days of the show and the drive home, but I absolutely love it. It really is an experience!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Time for a Breather.

After a very full summer and autumn season, I am taking a few days off to take a breather. My list of things to ponder, write about, finish and take care of during the winter is rather longish, and I'm looking forward to all of this - but before that, a few days to take my mind off everything and gain some distance are in order.... sometimes, it's good to take a step back, and one can see clearer.

Regular blogging will thus resume on Monday next week :)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Links to cool things.

Yesterday was a day that I took things easy, to accommodate for the weekend spent working (in a thoroughly enjoyable and wonderful way - it was a lovely workshop!).

Some of that taking-it-easy-time was spent rootling around the internet, and I came up with several really cool links.

First of them: Gamers have probably solved a puzzle that scientists had not been able to solve before (using computers). The reason? Humans are (still) much better at spatial reasoning than computers. Not only did they solve it, they also were pretty quick about it! The game is called "", it's an online game that you can download for free, and there's links to a protein database where you can learn, for example, about Amyloid beta precursor protein - in a way that will not bore your proteins out of your brain.

I've mentioned gender quite a few times on this blog - and I'm not alone. Magistra et Mater blogs about the now available new Handbook from Oxford Uni Press: Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe.

And the last "wow" thing for today: A 2000-year-old seed has been successfully sprouted into a sapling date tree. Isn't that amazing? There's a nice article about it at National Geographics.

Monday, 21 October 2013

How did I end up here?

On Friday's Ask me anything, Cathy wanted to know
Why did you decide to go into archaeology as a career?
That is actually a long(ish) story... when I was close to finishing school, my plan was to go into medicine. A while before the actual final exams, though,  I discovered that a job as a medical doctor (or similar) has several different sides that did sound very un-appealing to me. So I decided that it would be not my line of career, after all.

That decision sent me into a sort of limbo, because all the years before, I had always had a plan on what to do with my life after school. Finally I made a list with all the things on it that I wanted in my future professional life. Things like working outside at least part of the time, working with people, having both manual work and brain-/desk-work. At that time, I was already into living history and had been for a while, so I added "something to do with the Middle Ages" to the list. (To be precise, it was "something to do with the Middle Ages but not History because I am so bad at remembering numbers".) I also wanted to go to university.

Then I leafed through the book you got, back then, listing all the possible course lines that you could study, and the places where they were offered. I found "Archaeology of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age" in that book, and it sounded appealing. It also sounded like it would fit in with all the bulletpoints on my list, combining outside excavation and fieldwork with academical work using books and computers at a nice, comfy desk.
My parents supported the decision, though it was very clear from the beginning that it is not a line where you are guaranteed a steady, well-paid job - and that's how I ended up studying in Bamberg and doing Medieval Archaeology: because I had made that list, and the career seemed to fit in with what I wanted.

It did fit in with what I want still, and I have not regretted it, and am deeply, deeply thankful to my parents for making it possible.

Did that answer your question, Cathy?

Friday, 18 October 2013

Preparations. And Ask Me Anything.

Tomorrow will be the start of my sewing workshop, and I'm really looking forward to this - I'll do the last preparation bits necessary for it this afternoon.

Otherwise, I have been busy registering my photos with VG Bildkunst, after getting the prod in the behind that I needed to finally get myself a password and do the paperwork. I'm really curious to see how much that will bring me! This is what made me find out, by the way, that I have posted a bit more than 200 photos on this blog. That's not so much, actually - it roughly means one photo every fifth blog post. (I should post more pictures. Pictures are nice.)

Also, I have decided to do an Ask me anything - go ahead and post your question in the comments. I will do my best to answer anything, within reason. (Non-reasonable things being those too personal, or those too complex to answer in a blog post. Or those I deem unreasonable for some other reason. You know how those things work, right? And probably better than me, too.)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

This and that.

In today's random list of things that I found interesting:

Are computer searches making us dumber or smarter?

A very personal, and very impressive, answer to someone depressed and thinking of suicide.

A piece on gender behaviour and its possible biological roots.

The journal Archäologische Informationen is now online and open access. h/t to tribur.

Norway is trying to break the Australian record for sheep to sweater, and it will be televised.

And finally, should you be looking for inspiration on how to quit your job in style - look at the art of quitting.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

It's gone live!

A while ago, I hinted at something developing connected both to the Eternal Spinning Experiment and Ravelry.

Though I have been mostly away, and busy, and mostly without internet access during the last two weeks, that thing has gone on developing (huzzah for collaboration with others not absent during that time!) and it has, also during my absence, gone live.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you a new Ravelry group: SpinStats. The aim of that group is to use the immense number of (handspindle-)spinners on Ravelry to collect some data about things that are of interest for research into hand-spinning... such as: how much yarn do people pack onto a spindle?

Spinning styles and methods can differ wildly, as can fibres and thread thicknesses and whatnot. But we do need some more data than is currently available on hand-spinning processes, and Ravelry with its mass of spinners from all over the world is a wonderful place to collect said data. This is why we came up with the idea for SpinStats. We will post challenges to that group that anybody who likes can join - beginners, advanced spinners, we want you all.  The first challenge is already up and running, and it will hopefully tell us something about the normal cop weight that modern spinners put onto a spindle. Is there a difference between spinning styles? Or depending on the spindle? Fibre, maybe? If we are lucky and get enough data, we might gain some insight into this.

So if you are a hand-spindle spinner and would like to help in generating some data, please go join our group. (In case you are not on Ravelry yet - it's free to join. Should you not want to join for whatever reason, but still like to participate, just email me and I will give you the challenge data.) If you know hand-spindle spinners that might be interested, please pass on the word - the more spinners, the better. We have the first few cops submitted already, and I am absolutely thrilled to see the group up and running. (I'm still working on my cop, though, being a slow-ish spinner with thin threads, and so on...)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

I blame the internet...

... for this especially late blog post. Because I got distracted. By not one, not two, but three repositories:

Fornvännen, a Swedish journal, has searchable archives online. The articles are (of course) in Swedish; if you search for Inga Hägg, you will get several articles by her about Viking garments.

Also online, also for free: the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society's Transactions. Plus their newsletters and special papers. The archives go from 1860 to 2005, and the Transactions themselves are quite substantial.

And thirdly, the Durham e-theses - you can browse by department, see the newest additions, or search for a term.

I will get back to digging some more in these three places now. Yay for research to be found online!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Home again...

I am back home again, and it is so nice. While I love travelling, after a while, I miss all kinds of things - our friends, having not to live out of a bag all the time, knowing just where everything is, my own bed...probably a sign that I am becoming old.

I had, however, a wonderful time both in Tannenberg (in spite of one very rainy day) and in Aarhus, where I got to meet friends again, give a lecture about textiles in archaeology to a group of very interested students, and spent some quality relaxation time in open-air museums with beautiful gardens and lovingly restored rooms.

Now the summer season is officially over, and I can start settling down to all the winter work and winter projects. But first of all? I think I need a cup of coffee and a few minutes to make some room on my desk. Somebody put museum leaflets from Denmark all over it...

Thursday, 3 October 2013


It's start of October, and as usual I am on the last market/event of the season, in Tannenberg. I'll be taking my spinning project and of course the market stall will be open.
Otherwise, I am looking forward to some quiet time with friends that I don't see too often during the year, and hopefully some relaxed hanging out in the autumn sun, as the last weeks were quite exciting but also... quite exhausting.

After Tannenberg, I'm on my way to give a lecture at Aarhus University, so there's some more traveling for me to do. The blog will thus resume its regular function on Monday, October 14.

Until then, have a nice time and enjoy the (hopefully golden) autumn!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Gender issues. Or just... issues.

As my last post probably showed you, I am one of the folks who consider gender issues and think about gender.

If you are getting involved into textile stuff, it's probably unavoidable. There's so much gender preconception still attached to handling fibre, cloth, and textile tools that most of those who do it are... female. And that stretches out into modern jobs regarding textile, both new and old. Most textile conservators? Women. Most ancient textile researchers? Women. Most modern textile crafters? Women.

We still live in a gender-biased world. I am one of the lucky ones who had a course of study where women were neither the majority nor the minority. Even better, on the digs where I were, it was accepted that while the women on the dig might not fill the wheelbarrow completely full, they and their work was just as good and just the same as the menfolk's. You just walk a few more times with the wheelbarrow, and that's it. (And a lot of the menfolk did not want their wheelbarrow filled to the brim. Those things are really hard to push when you fill them up as much as can be!)

I have, however, had my fair share of gender-bias in other circumstances. In bicycle stores, for instance, when the guy doubted what I was saying, or did not want to listen. When selling my old car. The usual, you know?

Now, gender differences are there, and I am not going to deny that. However, they are more fluid than often assumed, and they can change with our culture. (Here's a recent article about that.) The little differences between people - whether they come from their DNA, their upbringing, their culture, personal preferences, talents, or gender - make life the colourful and interesting thing it is. However, when one of those things means that your work will be neglected or belittled, it quickly becomes bad. When it means that you are having it that little bit harder in your life because of something you had no influence over, that is bad. When it means that it may not even be possible to change something by complaining about something bad that happened to you, that is really bad.

And sometimes, sexism hides. Benevolent sexism is what this article calls it - I'd have called it a backhanded compliment, but the effect is the same: It makes you feel good while secretly lowering your self-esteem. Bad. Really bad.

So... I guess if I had a wish in regard to that topic, I'd wish for this: Next time, if you are taken back about the gender, race, ethnicity or whatnot of someone because you did not expect that - don't blurt it out. Think about it. About your preconceptions, your expectations. And then say something that is a real compliment, not a backhanded one. Because it helps nobody to dampen someone's potential by an -ism, any -ism.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tough luck.

I am currently preparing that one-hour lecture about archaeological textiles... and one of the things I want to mention is, of course, textiles and gender.
For that, I was planning to include a few pictures of men spinning - and I also knew where to get them from... I thought. Unfortunately, the database of Corsair is being re-structured at the moment, and while it's possible to get at most pictures, you cannot get at all of them. There is a MS in the library that has two pictures of men spinning with spindle and distaff (MS 358, fols. 20v and 40r), and just that one seems to be inaccessible. Well, I'll make do with a few other pics.

However, the search of spinning pics made me wonder. Have you found any special spinning pictures as in "not the usual"? Such as top-whorl spindles, men spinning, uncommon ways to hold a spindle, and so on? (I'm not going for the "hit the guy with your distaff" variation here, though they can be really amusing.)

If so, please share them - I'd be very interested to see some more of the spectrum that is shown on medieval illustrations. You could post them on your blog and add a link to the comments, or if you prefer, send them to me by email (katrin at pallia dot net) and I will post them here. (Just for stating the obvious: Please include the usual data where the pic comes from, for copyright reasons as well as for letting others know where to find it.)