Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Holidays!

Even though it is still not very wintery outside (read: not wintery at all!), the holidays are fast approaching - and I am very, very much looking forward to some nice, quiet time with family and friends, enjoying good food and spending time together.

There are still a few last odds and ends to take care of, but I'm hoping to have them all finished this early afternoon - and then I will be going on a lovely, long-looked-forward-to winter break. This also means that there will be no blogging until January 9.

Thank you all for a wonderful year 2014! It has been a pleasure blogging here, and I'm looking forward to more of it next year. I hope you will all have nice, relaxed and happy holidays, with friends and loved ones, only nice surprises and lots of laughter.

Have a wonderful festive season and a terrific start into the new year - I will see you on the flip side!

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Frenzy!

As the holidays are approaching, I find myself in a frenzy to finish stuff before everything grinds to a halt for the enjoyment of food, friends, and family. Which means that it is absolutely time again to post a festive musical video:

Also? Enjoy a nice cuppa.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dr Who rant.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the (new) Dr Who series... and I loved it. So, since we live in Germany and have no TV, we bought us some DVDs.

Season after season, we'd wait for the last one to appear on DVD, and as soon as we had it, there were nights when we went to bed far later than we should, because obviously we had to watch just one more episode. It was wonderful, and fun, and lovely.

And then... Russell T. Davies left the show. (That was 2009.) And then David Tennant left the show. (That was 2010.) The episodes with Matt Smith never rang the same with me as the earlier ones had done, and more and more we both lost that compulsion to spend half of the night watching the DVDs when they arrived. In fact, it took us ages to watch the last DVD season, and the highly praised "Day of the Doctor" was, well, sort of okay for me. I enjoyed seeing Rose again, and the other Doctors, but the story itself was more like meh for me.

A little while ago, we finally bought the Christmas special shown in 2013. (Not part of the DVD box, as usual - so we now have most of the specials twice. Gah.) We watched it the day before yesterday, and oh. Oh. (Might be mild spoilers ahead.)

It was easily the worst Dr Who episode that I have ever seen. It was so bad that I was thinking of deliberately trying to fall asleep after the first twenty minutes. It was so bad that I thought about getting up off the couch and doing some mindless computer gaming or read a book instead. It was so bad that I thought after half an hour "oh my goodness, another half hour left still". There was no plot, just weirdly sequenced apparitions of monsters. There was the Doctor betraying his companion (just to save her, of course). There were lots of explosions, plus there was some weird sexual innuendo at some point (wasn't that supposed to be a children's show, too?) and overall it seemed to me as if someone had just taken every monster from the last few seasons, put them into a box, and after shaking said box poured them out.

Ah, and the monsters... there were, once, rules about the monsters. Such as the Weeping Angels, who cannot move when someone looks at them. Including other Weeping Angels. There was that brilliant, brilliant end of the monster confrontation in the episode where the Angels stole the Blue Box.

Those rules got changed. Or nixed. Or now, they get ignored again and again - whatever of these three choices, it makes the angels less believable for me, and less scary, and less interesting. Similar stuff happened with a lot of other things, and other monsters. Again and again.

I'd like to have proper plots again. And monsters that follow the rules once made for them. More content, and fewer explosions to mask the lack thereof. Small but important things taken care of, not the whole universe, or whole planets, or whatever stuck here or there into another dimension because bigger is always better. It isn't. (That's like trying to mask bad quality with more volume. Not a good idea.)

So now we're thinking about whether to go on watching... or whether to stop. Capaldi probably deserves a chance, but if the show is written in the same style as it was these last seasons, I'm not very optimistic about how that Doctor will develop. Maybe we'll be able to borrow the next season from one of our friends instead of buying it - this time, I would prefer to be sure that I will like what I get before supporting the series with another DVD sale. And that, my friends, is sad.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Are you bored yet?

The EU vat rules have occupied me some more yesterday... and I'm very happy that I only have one pdf knitting pattern to sell, and that should be easily solveable by either continuing to sell it via Ravelry or taking it down come January. If that rule is really going to apply to physical goods in the future, though, things will look differently.

For those of you who enjoy graphic depictions of stuff, here's the comic listing the typical options for small businesses selling digital content:

(Comic by Dave Walker)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More about the VAT madness.

January 1 is drawing closer, and with it the VAT madness. I've spent a good while yesterday figuring out things and possible solutions. Well.

For those of you knitting, Ravelry is hard at work together with LoveKnitting to get a solution to the VAT problem, so there is hope that if you live in the EU, you will still be able to get pdf knitting patterns when the new year has come. If you want to be on the safe side, though, you might want to get the pattern(s) on your list now.

In case you have no idea yet whether the new regulations will hurt you or not, you might want to read this. It's rather long, but it is an impressive list of things that will be influenced by the EU VAT regs.

The EU VAT action has also planned a twitterstorm for today, starting in about... five minutes. In case you want to join, here's the official information page.

I'll be off to Twitter some...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Links for you.

It's time for links again!

Here's one to an ongoing comparison of fingerloop braids, together with instructions for each band, from Silkewerk.

Variations on yarn-overs, from Ysolda's blog. Just in case you want to tweak the size of your yarn-overs to make them exactly the same size.

If you read German and like things that make noise and stink (also known as ancient fireweapons), the page of the Bummsbrigade Hamborch should be just the thing for you. (If you don't read German, they are working on an English version of the page, according to said page, and you could look at the pictures of their stuff, "Zeug", meanwhile.)

Friday, 12 December 2014

Madness, brought to you by the EU. Please help stop it.

Just in case you have not heard about it yet (and I suppose a lot of you haven't): There will be a new regulation regarding taxes when selling digital services within the EU. Before January 1 2015, whatever you sold was taxed according to the rules your business is based in. After January 1, tax will have to be calculated according to the buyer's country rules, and you will have to pay your tax to them.

The intention behind this new rule? Prevent the big players from sitting somewhere in a low-tax country and shipping out oodles of stuff to everywhere else, making a bigger profit because of the lower tax rates. Which is all very nice - but this rule is, madly, going to apply to everybody. It is supposed to "level the playing field".

Can you imagine what that means for small businesses? Right. It means a lot of hassle, plus a lot of additional time investment, plus paperwork, plus costs. Or breaking the law. "Levelling the playing field", in their case, will mean taking them off the playing field entirely.

I learned about that rule change about two months ago, and I was really, really glad that I had opted for physical copies of the Pirate Robert hat to sell. This morning, though, I filled out a survey about the impact of the new rule, and I learned that the EU plans to include physical goods into this madness from 2016 on. WHAT?

This, Friends, Romans and Countrymen, will truly mean the end of many small businesses. Doing the paperwork for taxes is bad enough when you are handling your own country plus the exceptions that come with the "normal" rules. If I have to register for taxes in every country I ship to? And handle that accounting as well? That might kill my business. Together with many, many other small businesses.

The Internet has made it possible to get things from about everywhere, and the new regulations will cut that back to getting things from the big players only. Please help protest against the new regulations, in hopes that we can get better rules for us small players. There is a EU-wide petition for this - please sign, and pass on the information.

If you are a small-business owner yourself, or know one, here is the survey about the impact. Every survey helps. Every vote in the petition helps. Belief in miracles probably won't hurt either.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Tea time!

I love tea. Especially at this time of year, when it is cold and dreary outside, a nice cuppa makes life so much better, instantly.

I also love to have the tea on a teapot-warmer - for some kinds of tea, especially black tea, this seems to keep the taste nice for a longer time, as opposed to putting the hot tea into a thermos bottle. (At least that's what it feels like for me.)

Teapot-warmers, though, need something to burn within them. Which, usually, means tea lights. Now, these come in handy little packages, each one in their little aluminum shell, and the wax is not the most eco-friendly stuff either. That always scratched on my green conscience.

So from time to time, I'd try different things. Beeswax tea lights. "Eco" tea lights with different wax. They all did not work properly, due to different reasons.

A while ago, though, I discovered an alternative and have now tested it for a bit: oil lights. They are basically a cork swimmer thingie, you insert a short little wick into that, fill something like a small, flat bowl with water, put some vegetable oil on top, place the wicked swimmer on it and light the wick. There you go. Small, lightweight, no aluminum waste, and just a bit of oil that hangs out in the kitchen anyways. Plus, the company that has been making these since 1867 is based here, in my region, and does all the production locally as well.

I would have linked to them here and now, but they do not sell to end-users, and the oil lights seem to be relatively hard to find. Which means... I am actually thinking about getting them into my shop. It has nothing to do with textile production per se, but it is a wonderful product, we all know textile people need hot tea (right?), and it might also be just the thing a few living history folks need. (There were hanging oil lamps in medieval times, which definitely need something to hold a wick. That would be another nice excuse...)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Even more ideas.

Just because it's that time of the year, and just because I can - in case you are still looking for some inspiration for your shopping:

The British Library would like to aid you with their list of things you can buy. (Nice stuff, though the quill they offer as part of the writing set triggers one of my pet peeves. The first thing you do before writing with a modified feather? Take off that annoying fluffy stuff. Writing quills are not supposed to look like feathers! They look like naked central ridges of feathers, maybe with a little rest of the vane at the very top. The rest of the vane? Gone. Look at any picture of medieval scribes. Or later scribes using quills.)

Or maybe you are looking for a different kind of gift? Something that will not accumulate dust? You could sponsor something like the research project for bat-friendly roofing membranes (will run for 6 more days), or the archaeological excavations at Sandby Borg in Sweden, or help the UCL museum to protect and conserve its collection of very special skeletons.

(h/t to ossamenta for these last three!)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


It's time for some housekeeping again - well, housekeeping in regard to the computer. We have a lovely thing for keeping files safe and sound, since I have become an even bigger fan of secure backups when several hard disks died during my phd thesis writing. (I lost a bit of work each time, but not much, thanks to regular backing up.) So these days, we have a RAID 1, which is really cool, and with 2 TB, it's also quite roomy. For the non-computer geeks: RAID stands for Redundant Array of Individual (or Inexpensive) Disks. The 1 after that means you get two identical hard disk drives, and then you write all your data on both disks, so they should have identical content. The smart thing can check itself to make sure both disks are working and both have the same content - and in case one dies, you replace it and the thing mirrors the contents of the survivor to the empty replacement. It's not the securest thing there ever was, since there's no guarantee both won't die at once, but much better than just a single disk. (There's lots of more numbers for RAIDs that mean delightfully complicated arrangements of several disks to speed things up and make stuff extra-secure. But we stick with the 1, for now.)

Doing lots of backups, though, and with an inclination to rather copy a file once more than one time too few, duplicate files will inevitably accumulate. Which means that even roomy RAIDs will, at a certain point in time, not be so roomy anymore. So now and then, housekeeping is on the agenda. Which means that my computer has been running a duplicate search over night, and I just spent a little while checking what it has found, and generously deleting duplicates, triplicates and in some cases even quadriplicates. (That happens when you backup everything, then move a file to a different location, accidentally copy it again, and I have no clue where the fourth one came from.)

Just in case you are getting nervous now since your last backup has been ages ago: I use SyncBack as the backup tool, and AntiTwin to search and delete duplicate files. Both are free in their basic version. Go do a backup. It's the best way to make sure you might never need it - and if you do, well, then you have one!

Monday, 8 December 2014


For a change, I actually am remembering my blogiversary on the day this year.

On Monday, December 8, back in 2008, starting a blog seemed like a really good idea. It's Monday, December 8, 2014 now, and I would like to tell my past self that yes, starting a blog? Brilliant idea.

This morning, I looked at the visitor stats for the first time in ages - and I found out that I seem to have leveled out regarding both the views per year and the average RSS feeds that are taken from the blog. That means I'm at least interesting enough for a given number of people - and since you are one of them: Thank you for coming here (or getting the feed) and reading my blog! (Including enduring all the boring posts.)

Because without readers, a blog won't work. And meeting some of you readers is the best thing about blogging for me, by the way. When I meet somebody somewhere - at a conference, for example, or at an event, and somehow the blog comes up and the other person says "Oh, that's your blog? I read that!" I usually feel about 10 cm taller. Every time. (Good thing I only feel that way, or I'd be way past the record tallness for humans now.) It's nice to know that what you are writing goes out into the world, and even nicer that it is sometimes considered really helpful as well - posts like the one about untangling a skein of yarn or the series about fair prices in crafting get read again and again. (And now I'm possibly making them even more popular by linking them again.)

So. Thank you for reading. Thank you for all your comments, too, and for linking to this blog whenever I manage to do properly interesting stuff. I'm still enjoying the ride. (Or should that be "the write"?)

Here's to the next year of blogging - may my writing stay interesting enough for you to enjoy!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Looking for even more stuff?

If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I was at the Kreativ fair last month. Our time to walk around and have a look at all the other stalls in the hall there was limited, but it was enough to get an impression of things and to find a few very interesting bits and pieces. Or amusing bits and pieces - like the eyes that I bought for Cousin Itt, erm, my distaff:

There. Isn't that nice?

But I promised you stuff, in the title. So here you go.
One of the colleagues at the fair was a lovely lady who sold her own invention, a stainless steel sewing gauge. It's more or less the typical style used in Germany, without a sliding bit, which means it's resilient and will not take up a lot of space in your sewing tool stack.

Since it's made of stainless steel, you can use for marking hems and buttonholes (like you would usually do), but also for exact ironing of hems or seams. Or seam allowances - including those on curves. You can find sample pictures of this on her website (text in German).

I've watched Nannette demonstrate this, and were I a modern sewing person, I would have bought one on the spot. (I am not sewing in the modern style, at all. Which means that I also do not iron seams or hems. That, again, means that I have no use even for a nifty cool gadget like this.) 

If you are doing things to your seams and seam allowances using an iron, however, this might be just what your sewing kit is lacking.  Or if you are looking for a present for somebody who does modern sewing, that might be just the thing. The gauge costs 25 € a piece, plus shipping costs, and you can order it directly from Nannette by e-mailing her. (I checked back with her, since the website is German only: she's fine with shipping internationally, she will tell you how much shipping to your country will be once you emailed her, and it's also possible to pay her with paypal.)

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Looking for stuff?

Just in case you are still searching for things to delight friends, family, loved ones or colleagues with, now is the time of year to go read John Scalzi's blog. At Whatever, this year's Holiday Shopping Guide is live again, and you might just find something in the links that helps you with your finding-of-things quest.

In much the same spirit, the Yarn Harlot is also doing her yearly "Gifts for Knitters" thing again. (Scroll down a bit to find the gifts section.)

For both of these blogs, check back on them later - more stuff is going to be posted there. And even if you are all set with your presents already, they are worth looking at, if only for the curious things posted!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


It's very grey and wintery outside these days, but we still have no snow - as opposed to where my parents live, they've already had some of the white stuff.

It is nice to slowly migrate towards the calmer time of the year, though. While there are still plenty of things left to do hereabouts, there is no more fair or show or market for now, which greatly reduces the urgency of certain things. And that is a very good thing, as I still feel like I could use some more days off to relax and regenerate.

For now, though, having some nice quiet time in the evenings and looking forward to the weekend will have to do. Oh, and motivational hot beverages help as well. Plus chocolate. And the fact that it is pleasant work, overall - even if it is still work.

Just in case you would rather like to learn something new (or old) instead of reading me rambling on about the weather and wanting some holidays, here's a website helping you learn Middle English. Chaucer, anyone?

Or maybe a gratuitous knitting pic? I've succumbed to the lure of all that yarn while at the Kreativ, plus it was cool in the hall - so I just had to cast on for a snuggly triangular scarf/shawl. It's made from one skein of sock wool in the "Jeans" colourway, dyed by Margit from Alte Künste. (Here's the shop link.) I finished it a few days ago, and I've been enjoying its snugglyness ever since.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

News from the shop.

I blame today's very, very late blog post on the weather. To be more precise, I blame it on the light - I wanted to take the long overdue photos yesterday, but it was not light enough. So I waited until noon today... and now, finally, the plant-dyed silk embroidery threads are in the online shop.

(No use putting threads in there without pictures, right?)

And here they are, in all their splendour. Pictures don't do these justice, the colours are a lot nicer and more vibrant in reality.

I have limited stocks of some colours, and I realise that this is not the full palette that one might want to have for embroidery, but it's a good start - and I do take requests for other colours once a few have sold and I can think about widening the colour diversity.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Pre-Festivity Baking: Gingerbread.

Due to my sort-of-newly discovered food intolerances, the baking this year is both a little different and, in a way, a little more important than usual. Having the typical cookies for the season was always important for me, and baking them became one of my personal traditions years ago - I think it is more than a decade by now. (Wow. Time really flies.)

Traditionally, though, I only made cookies. A few things were not home-made, but bought - such as Lebkuchen (gingerbread). You might have heard of the Nuremberg Gingerbread, which is a speciality, and apart from the few very big producers of said food, there are small bakeries that have even better gingerbread. Which, however, always includes a few things that I cannot or do not want to eat these days, such as wheat flour (in the wafer at the bottom and usually also a little in the dough), soy lecithin (in the chocolate covering) or glucose-fructose syrup (in the candied orange and lemon peel, as well as in the apricot jam sometimes added).

That is a pity. And a bad thing, because this season without gingerbread? It's unthinkable for me. Which is why I had to trawl the 'net for different recipes until I found one that comes close to the recipe of our previous favourite gingerbread maker. I reduced the sugar content, though, and upped the amount of nuts and almonds.

Just in case you want to make some, too - here you go:

8 egg whites
200 g brown sugar
10 g salts of hartshorn
200 g marzipan (I use marzipan paste which has less sugar and more almonds)
200 g hazelnuts
600 g almonds
100 g lemon marmalade with peel (substitute for the candied peel)
100 g orange marmalade with peel
120 g honey (use an aromatic one)
50 g apricot jam
30 g gingerbread spices
pinch of salt
flour as necessary

Beat egg whites and sugar for several minutes, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Grind nuts and almonds (I use half of them finely ground, half more coarsely). Mix all the ingredients into the beaten egg-sugar mixture; tear the marzipan into small pieces first so it will dissolve better.

The dough should be viscous and sticky. If it's too liquid, you can add in some flour of your choice, or more finely ground nuts. Let it stand in a cool place overnight (or at least for a few hours) before baking.

For baking, place portions onto a silicone baking sheet, baking paper, or place portions of the dough on the traditional wafer thingies. Bake for c. 10 mins at about 200°C. The gingerbread should be slightly toasted brown on the outside, but still moist on the inside.

Friday, 28 November 2014

It's almost the weekend.

In addition to it being almost the weekend, it is also almost the first of the four Advent weekends. Which means that I am way, way behind on all of the seasonal baking. (Yes, there will be baking. It seems that I can eat spelt, and I can also eat a bit of nuts, and for all the rest... well, if the tradition of baking and having cookies for Xmas means that I will feel a little suboptimal for a few days, I think that's probably totally worth it.)

Just in case you want to get into the spirit, too, here is a link to a knitted ornamental star (free pattern via Ravelry, h/t to the Yarn Harlot). And in case you want a non-needle-dropping tree, here are instructions for Origami trees.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Lots and lots of links.

And once more, a slew of tabs has accumulated in my browser,  so it's high time for me to post those links and close the things...

The "Kaiserchronik" will get a new edition, thanks to a British University.

A Norwegian Iron Age tunic is going to be reconstructed in a joint project between two museums and a number of crafters.

English Heritage is offering backlist monographs as free pdf downloads.

A German food discount chain is selling antique coins for collectors - Archaeologik has a wonderful rant about that (in German).

Even more links are brought to you by ossamenta.

Oh, and finally? Mosaics. Old ones.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Tool Talk: The Ashford "Student" Handspindle.

Ashford is a New Zealand company that is well known for its spinning wheels, and I have heard quite a few people rave about said wheels. They also offer a small assortment of drop spindles, both bottom whorl and top whorl ones.

These spindles are... well. Very simple in form, with a wooden disc (that may be partly hollowed out) as a spindle whorl, attached permanently to the spindle shaft, which features a hook at the whorl end in case of the top-whorl or dual-purpose spindles. The spindle shaft itself is just a ramrod straight rod.

I've seen pictures of these spindles before, but I had not seen one in real life, or held one in my own hands. That, dear reader, changed this last weekend. One lady who was at the Kreativ fair brought her spinning, done on an older model of the Ashford Student spindle, and I was really, really shocked. Not about the spinning, or I should rather say I was shocked in a good way about the spinning.* The real shock was the thing they had sold her as a spindle. FOR BEGINNERS. It looked like this:

As you can see, it's a tree trunk glued into a wagon wheel. This is not a spindle. It's very, very far from being such a thing. It's even less a spindle than the specially designed spindles that I used during the spinning experiment back in 2009, and I haven't yet heard the end of how horrible those things were.

After recovering from the first shock, I put the thing onto my scales. The spindle weighed a whooping 118 g. One hundred eighteen grams. That's about three of my normal spindles together. (There was a bit of wool on it, but not more than 2 or 3 g at the most.) The spindle shaft was about 1.5 cm thick throughout, even at the top, and the whorl was probably about 3 cm in thickness.

This is like handing a sledgehammer to a child to learn how to hammer little nails into a little piece of wood. It's like handing a blunt-edged sword to someone and expecting that someone to cut neat filet pieces from a mouse carcass. It is that unsuitable to learning how to spin. Firstly, there's biomechanics: You need to get the spindle into motion. That is usually done by flicking it between your fingers. Have you ever tried to flick a tree trunk into motion? Seriously, it's a big deal how thick or thin your spindle end is - the thicker, the less effective your flicking motion will be.
Add to that the sheer weight of the thing attached to the tree trunk, and you need serious muscles to get that thing going. Once it turns, it will go on for a bit - but that is only if you actually managed to get it going. (I didn't. I failed miserably at trying to produce a thread on that thing. This is the first thing that calls itself a spindle that I did not really manage to spin with. Granted, I only tried for about 30 seconds because it was just so much not a spindle that it was very not-fun to use it.) Oh, and because the shaft is not tapered, the spindle will have a serious wobble: the thread attached with a half-hitch is a good bit away from the centre of rotation of the spindle, which obviously goes down the center of the tree-trunk-and-wagon-wheel contraption. Result: An ungodly amount of wobble.

In addition, the sheer weight does what spindle weight always (and exclusively) does: It gives you a realtime quality control. Your thread will break if it cannot support the weight of the spindle. That, per se, is not a bad thing - you don't want your spinning to break on the loom, for example, and then it's much better to find the weak spots during production of the thread. However, to spin a thread that will support 100+ g of weight, you need a serious amount of fibres. Even more if your spindle doesn't deliver twist fairly quickly... which, guess what, this thing doesn't, as you cannot get it to turn quickly.
Theoretically, now, you could use a spindle that is too heavy to spin supported. Which only works if the bottom of the spindle shaft is... pointy enough so you don't lose too much momentum to friction. The bottom of that thing was exactly as tapered as the top: not at all. There you go. Producing anything vaguely yarn-like on that is no mean feat and deserves a lot of respect.

How on earth can anybody recommend that thing to a beginner?** I know that there's an inclination to hand indestructible boat anchors to beginners, but this is even worse than the least appealing of boat anchors I have seen before. Much worse. It is suitable to pound nails into walls, or to cook a three-course meal over an open fire using only one of the spindles as fuel, but not for spinning. You can probably learn better how to spin if you stick a stroopwafel*** onto a pencil, or a grape onto a toothpick. Spindles like that thing are the reason why competent wheel-spinners say that they cannot use a hand-spindle. They are probably also the reason why people who want to spin very quickly buy a spinning wheel.

If you are an aspiring spinner, find yourself a spindle that turns reasonably fast and is reasonably easy to set into motion. If the spindle seems too fast and you can't keep up with drafting, you can always park-and-draft. Don't go above a weight of max 70 grams - that is plenty to learn with, will result in a sturdy enough thread and still allow you to spin a little thinner than rope. (You can as well start with a weight of 30 to 50 g - still enough.) Make sure the spindle shaft tapers enough towards the top so you can twist it easily, and the spindle won't wobble too much. If you like to have options, look for a taper at the bottom of the shaft too, so you can spin supported. And if you like to have even more options, get a spindle shaft without permanently attached whorl, then you can randomly stick all kinds of roundish objects with a hole onto it and see what you like best.

If you have tried to learn hand-spindle spinning with a similar inappropriately named object, but have given up? Please give it another try. Take a round chopstick and fix a 30 g bead to it, or something similarly roundish and in a weight range of 30-50 g. A few round cardboard coasters, glued together, are a more slowly turning alternative. Don't let the tree trunk glued into a wagon wheel keep you away from that wonderful and wonderfully portable technique.

* The spinning was fine. I'm still amazed at the sheer tenacity it must have taken to spin on that thing. She went away with new spindles, by the way. And with a much happier look!

** To be fair, Ashford have since changed their spindle form and weight a bit, though only slightly, and I would not recommend the more recent ones for spinning either. Especially not for a beginner spinner.

*** A stroopwafel is a round, thin, sticky-sweet Dutch speciality: a wafer filled with syrup (stroop).

****Hint: the first makes for a very wobbly spindle, but also for a good snack; the second one is very small and will fall apart as quickly as the first, but is a healthier snack.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I'm back.

I am back home, and still tired. The car is mostly still packed, too - but I will change that, or at least make a start at unpacking it, soon.

The fair in Stuttgart was very interesting, and we had a lot of fun there - but both Margit and I felt a bit out of place with our yarns and tools and things, as most of the fair was more catering towards non-yarn-related crafting. Our things were well-received, though, and we certainly did get a lot of curious looks for the spinning with a distaff!

After four days of fair, though, I am now looking forward to having a few calmer days and getting all kinds of things back onto the track they belong.

I also got to see a real life Ashford handspindle. And the very brave and very stubborn person who actually managed to spin actual proper yarn with that.... thing. I feel the urgent need to do a tool talk about that. Tomorrow, though, not today.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Off to Stuttgart! And video links for you!

I know what I will be doing today: Tossing a few last things into the car, hopping in myself, and going to Stuttgart to set up for the Kreativ fair. I will be there from Thursday to Sunday, which means no blogging here until Tuesday next week, when I will have recovered a bit, or so I hope.

You, however, might be looking stunned in a few seconds - when I tell you that there is a dance competition where PhD students dance their PhD topic. And then, who knows, you might click this link to read more about it. (That post, obviously, also contains links to the winning dance videos. Worth a look.)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Finnish Dress Reconstruction!

Mervi Pasanen has finished her masterpiece in handcrafting - a reconstruction of a medieval dress, based on an archaeological fragment found in Turku, Finland. Since part of her project was sharing information, she has posted pictures of the dress and a description of its making, together with plenty of photos, in a blog.

If you are at all interested in medieval garments, you will want to click here and take a good look. There are also nice pictures of the original fragment on the blog, also worth checking out. (Textile porn, anyone?)
Don't be scared if you see a lot of Finnish text first - there is English text below, so keep calm and scroll on.

Monday, 17 November 2014

News from the shop!

I am still in the frenzies of preparation for the Kreativ - we will set up the booth on Wednesday, so there's today and tomorrow left for me to get all the ducks into nice, orderly rows.

Among the ducks to be herded was the winding of more linen sewing thread. For those of you who have bought and used the fine linen thread for your work and have fallen in love with it, I have bad news: my supply of that yarn is almost gone, and unfortunately the source of it has dried up. I still have some stock of the extra-fine linen sewing thread left, so that will be available for a little while longer, judging from the ratio at which the one and the other are selling, but eventually it will face the same destiny.

I'm a little sad about this, because I was always happy with the quality of that yarn and I have used it myself for a lot of sewing work. I've done my homework, and there will be a different-yet-similar linen thread in my shop once the old one is gone, or almost gone. However, if you know you will want exactly that thread that I have now in the shop - do stock up, because once it's gone, it will be gone forever.

Friday, 14 November 2014

It's Friday already?

It actually is Friday already! While there have been weeks when I was looking forward to it finally being Friday, this week I could have used another three or four days inbetween. Maybe three Thursdays? Or two extra Wednesdays and one extra Thursday?

Anyway, since I'll not be getting a few extra days, it is time to go cracking down on the list of things to do, among them the wrap-up of the Textile Forum (there are people waiting for an email), and some more preparation for the Kreativ. One of these days I'll end up on top of things and not feeling behind! (Or so I hope. Hope springs eternal.)

And speaking of being behind: Here's a post about Heraldics from the Medieval Manuscript blog from a good while ago. Enjoy!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The next thing coming up.

It's already November, and said month is already very well in progress - time to start thinking about preparation for a certain time next month. Yes, I'm hinting at Yule, or Christmas, or however you may call it.

Usually, by this time in the year, I am busy doing some baking already - which, this year, has not yet happened since I was busy with planning, and then running, the Textileforum. And now it will have to wait another week or so, since I will be busy preparing the last fair of this year: The "Kreativ".

This is a fair for all kinds of tools and materials you might need (or want) for your creative projects, and just as on the LonCon, I will be having a stall together with Margit from Alte Künste. The fair is running from November 20 to November 23 in the Messe Stuttgart, and you can find us at 1E34. I'm very excited to go there, and we are both looking forward to it. (Let's not speak of the flurry that both Margit and I are in, preparing for the show.)

To celebrate this state of mind with you, I have five free one-day tickets to give away. (You will get a code and will need to register online to receive the ticket proper.) If you would like to have one, tell me so in an email to katrin(at) - the first five to mail me will get a code.

And then - see you in Stuttgart!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

I am back!

I have safely returned from the week-long madness that is the European Textile Forum, and it was wonderful. That conference still is the ultimate mix of intense research and exchange of knowledge plus having fun with friends and colleagues who are really enthusiastic about historical textiles and textile crafts.

The programme was wonderful, we managed to run our experiment, there was playing around with hemp and tow and woad and chalk and fructose; there was fingerloop braiding and embroidery and puzzlement about how things were made, back then, and some solutions or at least big steps towards them. With the help of science. Which was also... fun. There's even picture proof of that. See?

There also was chocolate, and songs were sung, and one was even written to tell about the Forum. New friends were made, too. And when I came home, I was about as tired as it had been wonderful, so you can well imagine what was very high on my list of things to do. That's right. Sleeping.

Now normal life, and normal work, wants its dues - there is stuff to be taken care of, and stuff to be prepared. More about that tomorrow.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Forum Time!

The books that were due are back in the library, my lists are all written, and stuff to pack is accumulating. It's time for the Textile Forum!

It's also time for eating pumpkin everything. So in case you are celebrating (or taking any excuse to have pumpkin foods and other delicacies): Happy Halloween! And happy Halloween weekend!

Oh, and since I will be spending the whole next week in plant-fibre bliss at Mayen, there will be no blogging until Wednesday, Nov 12. (Time to recover. It's vital. Or the only thing I can blog about is little "z"s...)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Still busy...

Yesterday was a quite long, and quite busy, day - but also quite successful. The preparations for the Forum are going well, I have procured almost everything that I need, and the presentation is finished apart from a few more pictures to put in.

Which is very, very good, since I have to visit the library today and bring back a book or, if I manage, even two.

Not much other news from here, though - so you might want to look at the medieval tiles collection that recently got linked to in the comment section here (thanks!).

Or you might want to try and draw some circles after you've seen this:

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Stocking up.

The last few days, I did not only do some last-minute shopping for next week (I will be bringing hemp fibres, proper long ones, to the Forum), but I've also been stocking up on things. As of this morning, the linen tape in 3 and 5 cm width is back in the shop again, and I have finally taken the plunge and will soon offer naturally-dyed silk yarn for embroidery. The skeins have arrived, and now there is some winding into portions to do, and then some taking of photographs. I have a very dark blue that almost passes for black, a dark blue, an orange, brown, white, red, yellow and green - enough to serve quite a few embroidery needs!

I won't be able to get it into the online shop before the Textile Forum, so it will take a little longer before it's available - but I'm working on it! When I'm not doing the Forum preparation stuff, that is... fortunately, I'm almost finished. One of the big things still left to do is packing all the things I have to take with me, and taking care of details such as charging the camera batteries. There's a growing list of things to pack that will help me no end when I do the actual packing on Friday or Saturday, though. All hail the power of lists!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


It's time to shower you with links again! So here you go...

Are you looking for a movie to watch on Halloween? Here's a list of 10 horror movies featuring archaeologists.

If you prefer some real-life horror, how about this: the Swedish government wants to close all of the Swedish archaeological institutes in the Mediterranean. No joke. Archaeologik has done an article about this, in German; there is a petition running against the closure. If you want to sign (please do, and please spread the word), there is an explanation at the bottom of the English translation of the letter.

For those of you interested in the history of People of Colour, check out this tumblr "bookshelf" with free downloads - the books are concerning early modern and modern time.

In case you are looking for an excuse to visit Rome, there's a Protolang conference planned for September 2015, with the CfP open.

And finally, a very interesting video on how a seemingly small change in environment can have huge effects: Wolves in Yellowstone.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Gaah. Sometimes it just won't work.

I have worked some more on the spinning wheel tuning project - and it was frustrating. Sometimes, you sit down and try things and make a prototype and do the maths and then you go for the real thing and everything works beautifully. This, however, was not one of these times. About nothing in the current setup worked as planned.

The two whorls I 3D-printed are too slippery to give good traction to the drive band. (3D printing is still very cool.) So... I tried to make the drive band less slippery. I had had wonderful de-slipping success some years ago with using Seamgrip, a sort of glue originally intended to fix holes in outdoor stuff like tents. Unfortunately, the new tube of SG that I ordered made the thread I had planned to use stiff and slick, not supple with a rubbery outside.

So, after a while of fiddling and some more fiddling and lots of cursing, I have now switched back to the prototype setup from before, which was always intended to be temporary. For the current spinning tests that I have to do, this is what I will have to use - provided it will work well enough.

After that, I will have to sit down and plan again. I have not given up yet - but it looks as if there has to be some more fiddling and making of parts before my original plan can be implemented.

Friday, 24 October 2014

More Open Access stuff. And a bleg.

The OA week has provoked some more blogging, not only here. Doug has posted a longish article about OA publishing concepts that sound a lot more reasonable than the ones I ridiculed yesterday. And one before that, with a lot more information about free or affordably-priced OA journals, and links to said journals. Go read it here.

In other news, I'm still busy editing (the Beast is losing words - it's like a book diet!) and also preparing for the Textile Forum. Additionally, I am thinking about offering an embroidery set for doing a small medieval motif, about 4 cm in diameter. I would like to offer that as a complete package with cloth (that has the pre-inked design), naturally dyed silk thread, maybe gold thread, short instructions and possibly also a small (non-medieval, but affordable) embroidery frame. Suggestions as to motifs would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Open access and "open access".

I just found out that this week is Open Access Week. Yes, it's nice and comfy here under my rock, thank you for asking.

I found out, by the way, from an email sent to me by Maney. The email says they are partaking in Open Access Week - and my first reaction was "yay free access to articles!". Turns out that was wrong, though.

The email tells me about the very generous offer of 50% off the fees if you want to publish an article as OA with them. Yes, that's right - Maney is one of the "author pays for OA" journals, and their fees are quite hefty. Even with 50% off, you'll still shell out between 400 and 1000 USD. Erm... thanks, but no thanks. In my universe, the One Rule still stands: the author never pays. Yes, I know that publishers have to eat, too, and that their money does not come from publishing for free and giving away the published articles, too. It comes from selling what they have published - and I still think that it is fair to pay for what you want to read, provided it is not what Germans call a "Mondpreis" (moon price, literally - an astronomical sum that is totally unrealistic). I'm also convinced that a reasonable pricing of articles, especially older ones, would raise their income far enough that a fair-for-everybody model will be possible. (Or would you hesitate for a second to pay one or two dollars for immediate access to a paper that interests you? Instead of being asked to shell out 30+ dollars, even though the article is several years old and you do not know whether it will really help you on with your research, or not?)

You can laugh about the pricing yourself here. Incidentally, the page also offers the full list of OA articles published with Maney. I do not wonder why there are so few... (There is one about spinners and yarn regulation in 1550-1800 that might be of interest to you, too, written by John Styles.)

If you want to read some more, you can go to Paperity, an article aggregator of OA articles. (I found that via, by the way. The site seems to try for promoting OA, but also seems fairly small, impact-wise, and it has a layout that is a bit confusing to me.)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Things happening here.

The Textile Forum is drawing closer and closer, and thus we are busy preparing things and planning. I'm also doing editing work on the book project I am doing together with Gillian - we are reverting some changes that we made during one stage of the project, and both have the impression that our final book will be much better for it. It really is amazing how hard it can be to sort out the best sequence of chapters in a book - and how many bits and pieces would fit into several chapters equally well...

There's even more coming up - I have received hand-woven cloth ordered for the equipment of Lauresham, and it's washed and dried now, ready to be sent off for dyeing. The spinning-wheel tuning is also progressing, though slowly. The next step is a suitably "sticky" drive band to properly turn the whorls on flyer and spool; there is too much slip at the moment, and thus I am not getting the ratios that were planned.

Finally, I am starting to do the lists of things to prepare and to take to the "Kreativ" fair in Stuttgart. It's going to be a full and interesting November!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hedgehogs, Grapes, and what you surely did not know about them.

There's a nice little video with Latin text from the Physiologus (with English subtitles) that will teach you totally true facts about hedgehogs. You can watch it at discarded images.

Another manuscript tells us that if you want to enchant your lover, you should feed him catnip. Nice, eh?

Speaking of manuscripts, there's a conference about 14th century manuscripts in London on December 1, and more places are available should you like to attend.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Games! At Essen!

It's autumn, and that means it is the time of year where me and the most patient of all husbands go off to Essen for a long weekend and spend that time having fun with friends, playing new (and sometimes mostly new) boardgames and cardgames, get too little sleep, eat unhealthy amounts of chocolate and spend a bit of money buying games that really tick for us.

So, with a few tweaks to the usual food and sweets supplies we pack, that was exactly what we did during the last days. The "Spiel" at Essen is, according to the organiser, the world's largest consumer game fair, and going there really is an experience. As usual for our group of four, we spent a lot of time in the parts of the fair with the smaller publishers and non-German authors. These are games that you often only get to see (and play, and buy) in Essen unless you happen to know the authors, or the publisher, or stumble across them due to sheer luck. Going through the small publishers' hall has resulted in quite a few games in our collection that are now out of print or hard to get. Many of these are getting played regularly here - such as Snow Tails, my favourite racing game, or Totemo, a cube-placing game where you are trying to get more points than all the others.

This year was a bit weak on overall, at least in our impression. We did like a handful of games, and some of them enough to buy a copy - we picked up the new extension to Flash Point (a cooperative fire-fighting game that we play a lot) and a copy of the new edition of Monster Derby, a racing game with monsters with a nice mechanics twist we did enjoy a lot. There was no real Winner of Essen this year, however.  Usually, there was one game that the whole large group of folks we go to Essen with are all excited about, and that game then gets played a lot in our quarters, plus many of us pick it up. Said game is usually something in the medium complexity range, rarely a highly complex one. This year, there was no such game - the one closest to being the Winner of Essen 2014 was a prototype one of our group brought with him. A lot of us played it, and we had an insane amount of fun, so of course we now all hope that he and his co-authors will find a game publisher.

Fun was had. Mission achieved. And now? Tea, and back to work...

Friday, 17 October 2014

Even more sprang.

After yesterday's blogpost, I had some more of a look around the internet - and lo and behold, there is one of Dagmar Drinkler's presentations online.

You can download it, as a pdf file, here. It's in German, but even if you do not read the language, it might well be worth a look, since it contains a huge number of pictures of tight-fitting legwear, plus a number of pictures of sprang with diverse patterns.

And with that, I shall leave you to the weekend : ) which I am planning to enjoy thoroughly!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sprang, more of it.

One of the things that I really learned much more about at the London conference was sprang. Dagmar Drinkler and Carol James did a joint paper about tight-fitting trousers in Antiquity and Renaissance, and their arguments for at least some of the depicted trousers in artwork being made in sprang were, in my opinion, absolutely solid.

Even better was seeing and touching the sprang objects they both had brought, and seeing a pair of trousers in action (worn by Carol James). Together with seeing lots and lots of pictures of the Coptic sprang "hairnets" (many of them look more like caps or bags to me, since the word "net" does evoke some kind of openness or lacyness for me), my understanding of what is possible with this technique has grown a lot.

Carol James, by the way, has a website and a blog; she has made a few instructional videos, and you can also buy a book with instructions from her. Do check out her website, there is amazing stuff to be found on it!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Autumn has come.

These days, the light has become golden, and leaves are starting to fall off the trees in nice autum colours. Mornings and evenings are colder, and I'm waiting for the first leaves of our willow fence to fall off, too - they are still hanging on, but are getting yellow more and more.

Now, autumn is definitely pumpkin season. Not only because of yummy things you can do with pumpkins, but also because of the pumpkin art that is done around Halloween (and yes, Germans do enjoy that too). If you are looking for some inspiration, look at this gallery of pumpkin carvings.

And should you be one of those that like a bit of garlic in their pumpkin meal, here's a nifty trick for peeling a lot of garlic, really quickly:

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Online stuff for your reading pleasure.

There's two things online that I recently heard about, downloadable for free.

One is the conference proceedings of Computers in Archaeology from the 2012 conference: Archaeology in the Digital Era: Papers from the 40th Annual Conference of Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA)
 and the second thing is Christina Petty's thesis about the warp-weighted loom, both in archaeology and in current practice, available here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

That was input. Serious amounts of it.

I'm back from a breathtakingly wonderful conference! It was lovely all around: the venue with the absolutely brilliant and incredibly helpful staff, the papers and, of course and most important of all, the people. The only more-exciting-than-necessary part of the journey was the journey itself, where I had regular adrenaline spikes due to delayed trains. (I arrived in time, and safely, on both legs of the journey even if it did include some running.)

Quite a few of the topics in the conference were things that I had heard of before and that I had a basic concept of, but the papers gave me a far deeper insight and in some cases real revelations. I have learned so much more on the possibilities of sprang alone that my mind still feels slightly boggled. I'm also feeling a very noticeable desire to run into the basement, put my sprang frame together again and finally delve a little deeper into the technique. The possibilities shown at the conference... let's just say my skills need to improve.

Sadly I couldn't stay in London for longer, and I did not get to see too much of the city (the walks that I did, most of my concentration was focused on something else, such as chatting, or looking for a specific place, or shop). I got to meet with some friends, though, who took the trouble of travelling into London just to hang out with me for a few hours. I also got the compulsory shopping done, among that consolation biscuits for the most patient husband of them all, and mustard powder, and clotted cream. Things you just can't get in Germany.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Even more links.

Jstor has launched a new thing called Jstor Daily - you can find it here. The idea behind it is to take news articles from normal news and link them up with science related to them. It sounds like a nice idea!

If you prefer reading science stuff right away, maybe this thesis is something for you:
Christina Petty, Warp-Weighted Looms Then and Now. Anglo-Saxon and Viking archaeological evidence and modern practitioners. It's a brand-new thesis, and it is downloadable for free. Enjoy!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

London Calling.

Yesterday was, again, quite busy - the taxes for the last quarter are taken care of, there is plenty of stuff to do on my laptop, I have packed spindles and wool for the demonstration, Textile Forum organisation has been taken care of as well... and now I am on my way to London.

Meanwhile, for you, there is a link to the charades or riddles from Jane Austen's Emma; and one to a German-language article about two children's graves, recently discovered.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

It's a long way to the end of the List.

There is, as usual, a stack of things to do today... before I leave for London tomorrow. I can't believe it is tomorrow already. Good thing that my presentation was finished before I left for Tannenberg (well, apart from that one last picture I have to scan and place today, and from going through it once more to make sure I will stay in time.) Somehow, this year, the autumn is chock full of things to do and of dates to keep. Yesterday was thus incredibly busy, and today will be no less so. At least life won't be boring anytime soon!

While I am refilling my travel necessaire and packing the things for the demonstration bits of my presentation, you can amuse yourselves with some links.

For example the snark about the media treatment of a grave at Powered by Osteons.

The British Library has an interesting post about whether to wear white gloves or not.

Doug is doing a series about crowdfunding archaeology.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is offering fellowships; information and the possibility to apply for a fellowship are on this page.

Finally, an excerpt from The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use by J.N. Liles about dyeing on fermentation vats.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Back home for a short time!

I'm back from Tannenberg, which was lovely and sunny and a lot of fun - we ended up one evening hanging out with our friends, who had their tents right next to ours, reminiscing and singing old and silly songs from our childhood.

Now there's a stack of things to take care of before I rush off to London to the Collingwood conference - among these trying to get the online shop back onto track. There seems to be a bug related to the shipping-cost calculation, and I have not been able to exterminate it yet. So should you have tried to reach the online shop and had no luck - sorry, I'm working on it!

Thursday, 2 October 2014


This weekend, I'll be at the last medieval fair thingie for this season - in Tannenberg. Should you be in the area, please drop by. As usual, I'll have my market stall somewhere on the meadow below the castle.

And accordingly, there will be no blogging from tomorrow (when it's a public holiday here anyways) until Tuesday. Maybe this dancing traffic light will make your waiting easier:

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Funding, Open Access, and "Author Pays".

I've been pointed to a discussion about the journal "Internet Archaeology" by a friendly colleague. The journal IA has recently dropped its paywall and is now free access for everybody - to which I say Hooray and Thank you.

However, as someone in the discussion on Antiquist points out, it's not all free. The journal is financed by an "author pays" scheme, which means you need to be able to pay for having your paper published. The discussion quickly goes off into other terrains where there are problems in data access, but for me, the interesting bit is that one of the contributors says that "author pays" is not a problem, since nobody pays for that out of their own pocket anyways.

To which I say... not true. Definitely not true.

I would never publish in an author pays scheme, not only because I am a firm believer in the principle that the money flows towards the author, not away. I would also not be willing to shell out even more money for an experiment, thankyouverymuch. As a rule, I pay for my experiments myself, because getting funding for them? Difficult. Having an institution behind you makes things easier, but even then it's not guaranteed that you will get funding. Plus the time you have to spend on trying to secure said funding... never underestimate how much of your time, and energy, applications can suck out of your life.

I had plenty of experience with that topic when I tried to secure funding for my phd thesis (hint: I didn't get lucky). You have to do a new application package every time, then it takes ages to go through the system, and finally if you don't get funding, you have to deal with the emotional fallout. (At least I did.) At the end, I estimated about two to three weeks' work worth for each application. There's quite a lot of times that I've heard people complain that they are not getting around to really working, because in order to secure further funding so they will not lose their job, all they have time for is write one grant application after the other.

At some point, especially if the experiment is more work-time and not too much monetary investment for the things you need, you might decide it's not worth the effort to go for funding, and just go ahead and do it. Then, at the end, if all went well, you have an experiment and some results... and there you are. The thing should now be published. The last, very very last thing that I, personally, want to do in that case? Pay the journal.

So who is going to pay the people working at the journal? Actually, I would be fine with a paywall for journal articles - let the reader pay. With one caveat, though: make the prices reasonable. 30 or 50 USD for a 10-page article? You bet that nobody who can get around paying that will pay. However, if you charge 10 or 15 USD - that would be much more reasonable.
And for things that are older than, say, 2 years? If the journals would just charge one or two dollars, you can bet that I would not take the trouble to get the article via the library, or maybe ask a friend who has access. I'd pay, just for the convenience of having it at once. Because it's not a high price, and I'd be comfortable in paying that. Probably a lot of other folks would think exactly the same, and do exactly the same.

Oh, and in my ideal world? The author should get 10% of the income that the article generates. Fair pay for the work that went into it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

News from the Wheel.

The spinning wheel test yesterday was... half successful. I took the measurements for the new whorls from my previous prototype hack of the original flyer and whorl, and in theory, there should have been next to no pull on the thread, thus resulting in a lot of twist being delivered while the yarn winds on to the bobbin very slowly. I had significant pull on the thread and thus by far not enough twist to suit my taste. Due to the temporary fixings of the new flyer, it was also not possible to just hold the thread tight until enough twist was delivered. I've tested the flyer whorl before, with the hacked old spool from the old flyer, and it did work quite well, so the excess winding speed is probably due to too much friction between the bobbin and the axle.

The new flyer and bobbin arrangement sits differently on the axle than the previous one, so the wheel and the whorls are out of proper alignment. This, in turn, means that I have to adjust the alignment; I fiddled with it yesterday, but did not arrive at the best final solution yet.

The orifice end of the axle also needs some kind of stopper. The old flyer had a snap ring to prevent it from going too far through the leather bearing, and the new one will need something similar. That, too, is on the list of things to do.

And finally, the bobbin itself was in need of some smoothing out of the insides, to reduce the aforementioned friction on the axle. Because it's difficult as whatnot to drill an absolutely straight, absolutely centered hole through a round dowel, I decided to laser-cut a lot of small rings and glue them on top of each other, stacked on the axle. That did work, mostly, with a little leftover snaggyness. Taking a round file to the insides, though, did take care of it, and it now spins much nicer.

The next steps in the process are thus clear. Now I only have to do the drilling, clamping, glueing and smoothing connected to them...

Monday, 29 September 2014

Almost done.

The spinning wheel tuning is almost finished - I had planned to do the remainder of the work, not easily done in the FabLab, yesterday, but then a large-scale cooking session got into the way of that plan.

All that remains to do, however, is glue the parts of the flyer together and then test if the setup works well enough for a good, long test-run. I might have to make a new holder for the flyer, too, but for the moment there's a temporary contraption on the wheel consisting of the old holder and an array of clamps holding it in its new, better-aligned place.

So. Ten minutes for this glue batch to set, then I'll glue the next one. Then the wooden parts need to be fixed, permanently, to the metal axle. And then comes the moment of truth.

Hopefully it will all work out as planned!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday Linkfest.

They have accumulated again, those pesky links. Or are they pesky? You might want to decide for yourself. Here they are:

Cathy posts a review of Marianne Vedeler's book "Silk for the Vikings".

Jonathan Jarrett has put together a resources page you'll definitely want to check out.

There's a German article about silk relics (tunic pieces) from the fourth century.

King Richard III has undergone multi-element isotope analysis, and seems to have liked his booze, judging from that.

That's it for today - now I'll go back to my presentation writing.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Spinning wheel tuning.

Part of this morning was spent on preparing another session at the FabLab (planned for this weekend). I've finalised the 3D printing data for the whorl bit on the bobbin, and finalised the lasercutting data for the bobbins themselves as well as the flyer "wings". The previous incarnations have already proven that the numbers and setup do work, and that I will be able to quickly spin thin, high-twist yarns with the tuned wheel.

Unfortunately, it seems that I will also have to replace the part that holds the flyer and the bobbin, because the new arrangement of bobbin and flyer and flyer whorl results in a slightly shifted alignment between drive wheel and whorls. Slightly, in this case, being big enough to cause trouble.

A bit more planning is thus necessary. But if everything works out as it should, I will have a functioning, fully-tuned wheel on Sunday.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A bleg. To handweavers.

It's been some time since I posted the last bleg, I think - and things have lined up in a way that, well, blegging you for information seems the thing to do.

As you probably know, I am not a weaver. I do know a few weavers, but not enough for a proper survey... and that is just what I would like to get.

The survey is connected to yarns (I'm working on a spinning paper, after all) and hopefully, it will let me either toss my subjective impression on what is used for weaving, or will corroborate it. Either way, it will be very helpful for me to see what is used.

So, here it is. The Survey. If you are a weaver, I would very, very much appreciate your help - please fill it out, and pass it on to your weaver friends. If you are no weaver, but have weaver friends, I would also very much appreciate your help - please pass it on to your weaver friends and ask them to fill it out and pass it on to their friends. Or copy the rest of this post, from "Handweaver Survey" on down, and post it on your blog, weaver's newsletter, or similar communication gateway. The more input I get, the better - if I can get more than 20 answers, it starts to get seriously useful for research purposes.

Thank you so much.

Handweaver Survey

Background Questions:

What kind of loom or weaving frame do you use?

How much, approximately, do you weave per year?

Have you woven custom work for others?

Have you woven for a museum display, living history purposes, or similar?

Weaving Questions:

How important is choosing the yarn type (grist, fibre types, hard or soft spun, single or plied, spinning direction) for you when you design or plan a weaving project?

What yarns do you usually choose for weaving - plied or single yarns?

Please measure the twist angle/ply angle of your most commonly used yarn (you can find an explanation of twist angle here, together with an instruction on how to measure it); with the measurement, make sure to state whether it's the singles twist or a ply angle:

Are you interested in historical (pre-industrial) fabrics?

Have you ever tried to re-create such a fabric?

Have you woven with high-twist singles in warp, weft, or both?

If yes:
Did they have a spinning angle of 30° or more?

Was it difficult to source these yarns?

How was it different from weaving with lower twist singles or plied yarns?

Can you share any tips or warn of any special difficulties?

Once you have answered these questions, you can get them to me either by email to, or post the answers to the survey on your blog and post the link to your blogpost in the comments here:

Again, thank you for helping me by filling out this survey! If I can get enough answers, I'll write up a proper report and post it on this blog.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Working on Spinning, again.

Spinning, as a research topic, has been occupying me a lot lately, and the next paper that I'm going to give, and that is currently in preparation, will also focus on spinning as an important part of textile production.

This time around, I am planning to look a bit more at the physics of what holds a yarn together, and to the properties of yarns with high vs. low twist, before launching into a look at different spinning methods - the one typical for modern hand-spinners today in the western world, and the two methods that can be reconstructed for medieval spinning.

The topic of spinning never ceases to rope me in and keep me interested. There are so many questions left - such as why there is a different spinning technique depicted on the few images from Hallstatt and the many more images from medieval times, even though Hallstatt threads were also high twist? Why is our modern technique not the medieval one anymore? When did those changes take place, exactly?

Spinning, to me, is the building block for almost every other textile technique that comes after. The properties of the yarn will influence everything done with said yarn - which means that you have to start with the spinning if you want something specific reconstructed as closely to the original as possible. And that, in turn, is a wonderful challenge for a spinner.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Monday! Back to work!

Now can I please find my enthusiasm for the work week?

Before I settle down to tackle a myriad of things that need doing, you'll get an update. On stuff.

I have recently discovered another online learning site, called Coursera. You can sign up for a lot of courses about a myriad different topics there, teaching you stuff from art to statistics. I've started to learn a bit about the latter (including signing up for a course on R programming), and I'm very curious to see how it will play out.

Also recently, also something I learned: Grains are actually fruit, not seeds. See here. The site this article is on is... interesting, since it ranges from explanations of the difference between twin and double rooms (in a text that, to me, seems rather long to say the one has two normal beds and the other one two-person-sized bed), to explanations such as the one linked above.

And for those of you in the area: Stockholm library is offering journal access to library card holders, with journals linked to the databases VITALIS and LIBRIS, both relevant for archaeologists. A shame I live so far from Stockholm.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Gobbled up.

Some mornings, even having "Blog" on my to-do list doesn't really help to get you a timely morning blog. I sit down at the computer and then I fall into a hole, doing something and being utterly gobbled up by that.

This morning, for example, I started out checking emails (as usual), writing a few short ones, and then the phone rang. Then I did my Czech lesson. And then had a bit of chat on Trillian for the current book project, and then I thought I'll just do one pomodoro's worth of work on the book right now so that I can send a file over to Australia. Which utterly enthralled me and now I'm in the second hour of work on it, and when taking a short break I suddenly realised that a) the bit of breakfast I had much earlier in the morning was not very much, and b) the blog post is yet unwritten.

So... there's the blog post. Of me telling you why it's late. And because that's not much to blog about, here are some things related to why it's late:

Pomodoro. After a long hiatus in this, I have re-activated the use of pomodoros as productivity aid yesterday. At the moment, it's mostly to make me stick with one subject for at least 25 minutes. It's nice to use this technique again, and it does help - I have gotten quite a bit of work done yesterday and today already.

Czech lesson. I've been at this for two weeks now, and I have the feeling I'm making good progress. Since I'm still quite happy with the programme, I will pass a link on to you. It's from Strokes International; they offer 24 languages (well, 22 if you want the course based in English, and counting English as second language), and you can test the first three lessons for free. They have some of the harder-to-get languages, such as Czech, Polish, Romanian, and you could even learn Japanese.
The programme has the usual problems of a computer language programme with speech recognition - sometimes you need to repeat a word a trillion times, sometimes you don't really know why it won't accept your pronounciation, and there is nobody telling you whether you are really off or whether it's a fluke in the speech recog. Still, it makes you speak a lot. It also makes you write a lot, in a not too nasty way. There are plenty of repetitions, plenty of pictures to help in learning, and a lot of "game-like" exercises such as a memory with the written term on one card, the picture on the other, and you get the spoken word for both as you flip them.
While there are a few small things that irk me (such as having to adjust the window size to my preference every time, and the programme not remembering that I want the keyboard picture at all times), I do enjoy the lessons and have the impression that yes, I am learning stuff, and not just in short-term memory - and that is the most important bit, after all. (I can memorise things quickly and easily for short term, which is nice, but not too helpful when it isn't settled into long-term brain storage, too.) For now, I can recommend it - and I hope it will stay that way!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Strap weaving.

Though I love all (or, well, almost all) textile techniques quite a bit, and I work in a good number of them, weaving cloth is not among those. There are a bunch of reasons for this - one is space consideration (looms take up space, and quite a bit of it if you want to work seriously), another is the limited time that any day has, and there are only so many techniques you can fit into one life while still doing them justice.

Another reason - much the same reason why I don't dye my own fabrics or yarns - is that there are enough proficient people out there who already know how to do it, have the equipment to do it, and are willing to do it faster, better, and probably much more efficiently than I could do it if I started out now. (That does not mean that I won't jump at any chance to dabble in these techniques, have some fun with the equipment and get some more practice.  That, after all, is both for my enjoyment and for furthering my understanding of these crafts. Or do an experiment concerning them. But I won't offer anybody to hire me for that kind of work, as I do for other techniques.)

Narrow wares, however, are a different beast, and I've done my bit of weaving these. So imagine my delight when I found out that there is a repp band weaving tradition in Ireland that is still a little bit alive: Crios belts.

Makes my fingers itch to do a little more rigid heddle weaving...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Random Linky Stuff.

Here are things, randomly assorted, that might be of interest.

If you like manuscripts and haven't checked out the medievalbooks blog yet, I thoroughly recommend doing it. Take a look at this post about Medieval Super Models, or this one about personal touches or personal statements in the margins.

A 3,500 to 3,900 year old suit of armor, made of bone, was found in Siberia.

Chloe Giordano is making really beautiful, really detailed animal embroideries. (h/t Heather)

Modern stair solutions - some of them really breathtaking.

And now for something completely different: Transgender people tell about the differences between how men and women are treated at work.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Gratuitous Cat Pics.

It has been way, way too long since the last cat pictures here. And this weekend, Madame was sleeping especially... um... curiously, so here you go.

Portrait of a Sleepy Cat with Vampire Teeth:

Sleepy Cat Snoozing on her Back:

Not Elegant, But Oh So Comfy:

She's having a vet appointment today, so she'll be less relaxed and comfy this afternoon... but surely everything will be fine again in the evening.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Games of a different kind.

I like games. I like board games (especially cooperative ones), and I also like computer games. Most of the ones I play (or we play together) are not very deep - more like light entertainment to pass some time, such as hidden objects or lightweight adventures.

Recently, though, I stumbled across two very different games. Both are online, both are free to play, and neither of them can be called lightweight.

The first one is called "Depression Quest", and it lets you explore the life of a person with depression. Depression is a nasty illness, and the game captures very nicely how it takes away perfectly sensible choices that seem obvious, easy and attainable - unless, that is, you are too depressed to be able to make them. DQ is a pay-what-you-want game, and it might be a good help in explaining to someone else how depression works.

The second one is called "Buried" and you play an archaeologist, newly returned from fieldwork, grappling with burial and death in both personal and professional circumstances. ("Buried" is not intended for the archaeologist, but more for the lay person. Plus, according to the game, it's possible to write a short paper in one evening even when starting out tired. Talk about game superheroes!) 

Both are not recommended if you are currently struggling with depression or grief, or if you have problems with death and burial as game items; but if you are not, and willing to explore these topics - I do hope you have a memorable experience doing it, and I'd love to hear what you thought of the games in the comments!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Ah, the joy of learning.

I am trying it again. Even though the last two tries did not last for very long, or were very successful, this time I have an event to work toward which is far enough in the future to actually be realistic.

If you are wondering what I am talking about - the next NESAT conference will be in Liberec, in the Czech republic, and since the last one was in 2014, it will be in 2017. (NESAT is, sadly, only every three years.)

I do not, yet, speak Czech, nor do I understand spoken Czech. That is true for a lot of languages, though - quite important for reading archaeological stuff - I can read a lot more languages than I can speak. I cannot even read basic Czech, though. That is something that I would like to remedy, and having a NESAT in two and a half years should give me enough time to learn some. Add to this the motivational tidbit extra - the most patient of all husbands and myself have a challenge going to do a ten minute foreign language improval stint every weekday - and it might just work. So yesterday I invested in a computer language learning programme. We'll see where it goes from here.

Did you ever, successfully or unsuccessfully, learn a language using a computer lesson packet? Or some other alternative way? I'd love to know. Life interaction would surely be better than just the 'puter, but Czech lessons hereabouts are hard to find, and I can deal better, time-wise, with ten minutes a day than with longer lessons with larger gaps inbetween.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Isn't it Friday already?

Well, yes, I know it isn't. Yet. Would be nice, though!

My parents dropped by yesterday evening, having been in the area, and we had an impromptu cooking session together with two friends, serving them a nice three-course meal. That was a lot of fun, but also a bit exhausting - and now I'd much prefer today to be Saturday, or at least Friday.

So while I am trying to bring my brain into gear, you are getting links (again). One of them is a book review on "Experimental Archaeology" by John Coles. Another friend and colleague recommended that book to me, saying it would be a very good read. The book is from 1979, so it's not the newest work about ExpArch, but seems to be worth a look.

Speaking of books, Doug is posting about Archaeology and publishing, another series of posts, starting with #1: Formatting. If you, like so many others, use Word for your work and wish to do layouting, I recommend taking a look at - when I was layouting and tweaking my PhD thesis for handing it in, their information did help me a huge lot. And while it's not easy-peasy, my impression is that Word will do everything you want it to - if you know how to kick its (micro-)soft little backside hard enough and in the right way. (Mind you, it might mean having to record and edit, or write, a macro or two. Expands the horizon. Never a bad thing.)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pirate Hat offer ends today!

After all these linky posts, it's time to do a "what is happening here" post again.

Yesterday, I finished the current state of a project - sewing basic garments for a new open-air museum, the Freilichtlabor Lauresham - and sent the things on their merry way to their new home. The project is not completely finished yet, but the next part will have to wait until the cloth for tunic and hose have been woven and dyed, which will take at least a few more weeks. I'd have loved for them to have all the clothes in time for the opening on this Sunday, but unfortunately, we were not able to get the cloth issue sorted out in time for that. (This proves again: textile stuff just gobbles up time.)

With this off my back and off my agenda, it is time to turn to the next exciting bits on the to-do list. So today, I'll do my level best to get some more work done on the Textile Forum. Check our website at tonight or tomorrow for the preliminary programme. And if you want to join, you can still register for the conference!

Another conference I have to prepare for is Crafting Textiles from the Bronze Age to AD 1600, taking place on October 10 and 11 in London. (This year is the year of travelling to England for me!) I will be giving a presentation about spinning as a historical craft, and I'm looking forward to that conference very, very much already. The programme is full of interesting papers!

Today's the last day of the Free Shipping offer on the Dread Pirate Roberts knitting pattern. If you were planning to get one, today is the day to do it!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


I've been blogging about food before. Naturally, since it is a thing that I enjoy a lot. (Especially baking. I've been called a "cake extremist" recently, and man, I'm proud of that. My cakes tend to feed legions.)

With my recent forays into different-nutrition-land, due to the elimination diet, I have read what feels like gazillions of articles about food and what you should eat, and what not. Eliminating a lot of the previous staples and mainstays of a diet does pose a challenge, and I was happy to find that there are a lot of suitable or almost-suitable recipes out there already. You can find them if you search the 'net for "paleo AIP recipe". AIP stands for "Auto-Immune Protocol", and that's basically the elimination diet scheme. It is a sub-section of eaters who eat what they call "paleo".

Now. I'm of the opinion that "who heals is right" - no matter what the approach. But I am also, due to my profession, attentive to things such as proper terminology. And calling a modern diet "paleo"... that just... gah. GAH. (I'm not alone in that, by the way! See here. Or here, where "archaeologists officially declare collective sigh over the paleo diet". I'm in!) I have enough colleagues who try to learn more about diets from the past - medieval, 19th century, and inbetween - and if you talk to them at any length, one of the things guaranteed to come up is the impossible task of sourcing raw materials that are like they used to be back then. (Just like in textiles. Ah, I can so relate.)

Mind you, we're talking about foodstuffs less than 300 years old, in some of these cases. Or less than 2000 in most. Paleolithic stuff? That's at least 12 000 years ago. More than twelve thousand! Folks! We know about nothing on how food was back then! (I blogged a very nice video about that ages ago, by the way. Here.)

There are a few other things that irk me. Some are due to personal tastes, such as the liberal use  of coconut flour about everywhere where baking is concerned, or the liberal use of other coconut products. (I like coconut a lot - but only in very specific circumstances. Not everywhere.) Some are due to a different personal stance on things, such as the declaration that sugar is really, really bad because it's so nutrition-poor and has been processed so much - but then these same authors happily use stevia (processed) or other weird sugar replacements, also very much processed; or honey which is less processed and yes, not as nutrition-poor as honey, but not that far away from sugar either. (There are some who agree with me in that stance, though. Like this one.)

So. My summary? There's this scene that calls itself "paleo". While the name still makes my hackles rise, a lot of the articles and essays on nutrition for healing are interesting, helpful, and do give food for thought. As always, though, every person is different, and different things will work for each and everyone, so finding out things for yourself is still the thing to do. That said, the recipes - both "normal paleo" and AIP - are really worth looking at, if only for interesting combinations of things to cook or prepare. And if you suspect having a food intolerance, they will be insanely helpful when you try to figure out what to eat and what to forego.