Friday, December 9, 2016

Viking Button?

Enameled bronze button from Birka.
Photograph:  Historiska Museet, Stockholm
The photograph that appears as part of this post is from the on-line database of the Historical Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  it is identified there as an cooper alloy button with enamel from the Viking Age that was found at Birka. The link to its entry in the Museum's database may be found here.

I have never seen a picture of such a Viking artifact before.  So I'm asking my readers about this Birka find.  It's a striking and beautiful design, and I'd like to have a better idea of how it might have been worn.  However, based on the information on the Historiska Museet's database page, it appears to have come from the "Black Earth" area, not from one of the graves.  That may mean that we know little about it.  Is anyone aware of any publications or reports that discuss this item?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Textile Book Sale!

Oxbow Books (Casemate Academic in the U.S.) is having an end-of-year sale, including some great deals on textile-related books.  This one is even better than the end of October sale, and requires no discount codes:  just some great prices.  This link will take you directly to the sale page.  I've listed all prices in USD, but the Oxbow page should have them in British pounds, and you can get a good estimate of the equivalent price in your currency from

Not all of the 200+ books on sale are about textiles; some involve other kinds of archaeological studies. But the textile books may be worth your time, especially if you're interested in ancient times and the early Middle Ages.   Some of the more interesting ones (in my opinion) include:
  • Cardon, Dominique.  The Dyer's Handbook:  Memoirs of an 18th Century Master Colorist. Regular Price:  $75.00.  Sale Price $42.00.
  • Spantidaki, Stella.  Textile Production in Classical Athens.  Regular Price:  $55.00.  Sale Price:  $33.00.
  • Shaw, Maria C. and Chapin, Anne P. (eds.)  Woven Threads:  Patterned Textiles of the Aegean Bronze Age.  Regular Price:  $55.00.  Sale Price:  $33.00.
  • Harich-Schwarzbauer, Henriette.  Weben und Gewebe in der Antike: Materiality-Representation-Metapoetics.  (Weben und Gewebe in der Antike:   Materialität – Repräsentation – Episteme)   Note:  Most of the essays in this volume are in German.  Regular Price:  $49.99.  Sale Price:  $12.98.
  • Boudot, Eric and Buckley, Chris.  The Roots of Asian Weaving:  The He Haiyan collection of textiles and looms from Southwest China.  Regular Price:  $80.00.  Sale Price:  $53.00.
  • Harlow, Mary, Michel, Cécile, and Nosch, Marie-Louise (eds.)  Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern & Aegean Textiles and Dress:  An Interdisciplinary Anthology.  Regular Price:  $55.00. Sale Price:  $33.00.
Most of the above prices are for hardback books.  These titles are all available as E-books also, though the prices may be different. Depending on where you live, shipping costs may make the E-book version a more economical choice.

Happy hunting!

Monday, November 28, 2016

One Afternoon Tutorials-Headwear

I've gotten stalled on my costuming projects (again!) and it's near the end of the month, so I figured I'd do another collection of quick tutorial projects.  All of these are headwear, from a number of different periods.
  • Medieval.  From Maniacal Medievalist comes a tutorial on making a simple, unpadded coif/arming cap.  
  • 1200s.  From Cité d'Antan comes a tutorial on how to make a touret, one of those "piecrust" type women's headpieces.  The tutorial is in French, but Google Translate and the pictures should make it usable for a non-French speaker.
  • Late 1400s.  I've shown patterns for late medieval wrapped caps before, but this one on Imgur gives good illustrations of how to put on and secure such a cap as well as directions for making one. The cap pattern itself was designed by the costumer who writes sevenstarwheel.  This pattern is different from the winged cap pattern I featured in a previous tutorial post. 
  • Late 1400s/early 1500s.  From Tece's Trials and Tribulations comes a number of tutorials for a number of wool German Renaissance hats:  a slashed hat; a simple squarish-crowned hat; a "schlappe" hat; and a floppy, broad-brimmed hat, among others.
  • 1600s.  How to make a man's "Cavalier" style hat from a purchased un-formed hat blank.  The tutorial can be found here
  • Early 1800s.  Here's a good tutorial on how to make a Braided Regency Hairpiece, from Katherine's blog, The Fashionable Past.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Change in Projects

Now it's November, and although I've slowed down on the nalbinding project, I've finally gotten two mitten cuff edges that are tolerable in appearance. Not perfect, just tolerable, as you'll see from the picture.  I may yet re-do the one on the right, which has more mistakes, and more obvious mistakes, in it.

The beginnings of two mittens!
I finally decided to deal with the issue of changing threads (piece of yarn, actually) this way.  I work each thread until the working thread is too small to take a stitch without falling out of the needle.  At that point, I pull the needle off of the piece of yarn, thread a new piece onto the needle, and start my next stitch without taking the last loop off of my thumb.  After I have completed the stitch, I pull the thread through until only a short piece is left outside the body of the work (about 2-3 inches/5-7.5 cm). Then I take a second stitch, in the same place as before, and in doing so drop the loop off of my thumb in the normal manner.  My new working thread is now anchored in the work, and forms the new thumb loop.  From that point, I go on working as usual. This leaves a pair of 2-3 inch pieces of yarn sticking out of the work for each new piece of yarn I use, but they can be clipped off later without significant ill-effect, so far as I can tell.  

The next step is to change yarn color and begin working the appropriate rounds, decreases, and increases, as specified in the mitten pattern, but I prefer not to push on too far too fast--that usually results, for me, in a bad mistake and a re-start.  I will give it a day or two before taking the next step.

The next time I start a nalbinding project, though, I'm going to take more care to make certain that I have 100% wool that is not "superwash".  My local Jo-Ann's fabric store carries a few nice colors of 100% wool yarn of the Patons brand, and even though it costs about twice as much as the yarn I bought for the mittens, it may be a better choice for nalbinding.

In the meantime, it's now November, and the current Historical Sew Monthly theme is "Red."  Since my sprang yarn is pink, this may be a good time to re-start that project, especially since work is very slow for me right now.  The good news about sprang is that, once I have a sufficiently good sense of what I'm doing, it should go very quickly.  With luck, I'll have at least a progress photograph for this blog before the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Oseberg Silk Reconstruction

The video embedded in this post shows Åse Eriksen weaving a reproduction of one of the silk textiles found in the Oseberg ship on a modern loom.  Judging by page, Ms. Eriksen normally specializes in weaving ornamental panels for modern ecclesiastical vestments. 

The only really surprising thing about the textile is how bold the color scheme is.  Red, green, white, yellow--all in the same textile.  Such a combination is not one that is commonly used in clothing, or even interior decoration, today.

Other YouTube videos by Ms. Eriksen show the weaving of samite (otherwise known as weft-faced compound twill) and warp-faced compound twill (used in early silk textiles by the Chinese), two types of weave that are rarely made today.   Ms. Eriksen describes her samite weaving project, and talks about the upright loom she built to weave samite, here.  I do not know enough about the weaving process to properly appreciate Ms. Eriksen's experiments, but I think it wonderful that she has explored these weaves, and thus I am making them more easily available to other costumers with a weaving background.

Although Ms. Erickson's website is written in Danish, it is worthwhile to explore it even if you are not a Danish speaker (perhaps with the aid of Google Translate), because it contains information about other early silk textile weaves.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October Treat

Today, I received an e-mail notice from Casemate Academic (Oxbow Books's American affiliate, which used to be called David Brown Book Company), advising that a number of Casemate's books on textiles and weaving are being discounted 20% from now until October 31, via this code: 781-16. 
I have not checked the Oxbow Books site, but I suspect similar discounts would apply.

Affected titles (with their USD prices) include:

Stella Spantidaki.  Textile Production in Classical Athens.  Was $55.00, now (i.e., with the discount) $44.00.

Henrietta Harich-Schwarzbauer.  Weben und Gewebe in der Antike/Texts and Textiles in the Ancient World.  Was $49.99, now $39.99.

Marie-Louise Nosch & C. Gillis. Ancient Textiles.  Was $48.00, now $38.40.

Karina Gromer & Frances Pritchard.  Aspects of the Design, Production and Use of Textiles and Clothing from the Bronze Age to the Early Modern Era (NESAT XII).  Was $78.00, now $62.40.

Marie-Louise Nosch & Zhao Feng.  Global Textile Encounters.  Was $12.00, now $9.60.

Mary Harlow, Cécile Michel & Marie-Louise Nosch (eds.). Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern and Aegean Textiles and Dress.  Was $55.00, now $44.00.

If you've wanted any of these books and the price drop brings them within your budget, here's your chance for a Halloween treat.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Bit More About Skoldehamn

Today, I found yet another Skoldehamn hood tutorial.  This one is geared toward people interested in attempting to make their hood as faithful a copy of the original as possible.  The tutorial was prepared by Eleanor Deyeson, an SCA member.  Her tutorial may be found here

Eleanor's tutorial is specifically geared to people who are not only planning to use the pattern of the original but are also prepared to use the correct types of handstitching that the original employs. (Note that Eleanor makes hood "kits" with pre-cut fabric pieces for making your own hood; they are available here; however, the ones available at present do not include wool fabric, which the original used.) She sees the particular stitches used in the original hood as eminently practical, as is clear from this comment from her tutorial:
I hope you enjoy learning about these various finishing techniques. Each has a functional effect, with any decoration as a bonus secondary effect. The stitching on the gore and back seams helps the hood lay flatter and the hood just looks better. The cord that is couched along the face opening helps stiffen the opening, and prevents friction from affecting the cut/folded hood edge. The “mohawk” on the top stiffens the hood, and possibly provides some comfort benefits while wearing in a cold, windy environment. Remember that the original location is on the same latitude as Point Lay, Alaska or Murmansk, Russia. 
The last point made in the above quote is particularly relevant, as many Viking reenactors and SCA participants are making clothing to wear in areas much warmer than Skoldehamn, which is located inside the Arctic Circle.  There is nothing wrong with making clothing for historical events based upon original finds, but it can be important to keep in mind that the conditions you will face at your event may differ radically from the conditions in which the original item was used.