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.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nalbinding in Unexpected Places

"Tailor's" buttonhole stitch.
Original graphic by Grace Christie,
"Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving",
 downloaded from Wikimedia Commons
Open buttonhole stitch.
From "Ancient Danish Textiles", p. 284 
Now it's October, and I'm still working on nalbinding at odd moments.  I have no news to report on that project, but while looking for more information about nalbinding I learned a few interesting facts that relate to nalbinding and that may not be commonly known.  In particular, simple nalbinding turns up in textile finds where I did not suspect it existed.

The one that surprised me most is that the neckline of the Skyrdstrup blouse is decorated with a few lines of nalbinding.  I learned that from Susanna Broome's booklet on Nalbinding from Finds.  The stitching is what we know of today as "buttonhole stitch."* However, if you work buttonhole stitch along a line of previously worked buttonhole stitch, or along a loop of thread, instead of through fabric, the result is a very simple form of nalbinding.  Ulrike Claßen-Büttner, in her recent book "Nalbinding - What in the World Is That?: History and Technique of an Almost Forgotten Handicraft," (Books on Demand 2015), calls this technique "simple looping"(page 21) and classifies it as a simple nalbinding stitch.
Twisted buttonhole stitch.
From "Ancient Danish Textiles," p. 284

In "Ancient Textiles from Bogs and Burials", Margrethe Hald discusses the Skrydstrup blouse and other instances of buttonhole stitch that were used as ornamentation.  One might deduce from this that the humble "buttonhole" stitch had many decorative uses in antiquity and the early medieval period.  Hald notes that at least one find of a cap worked in open buttonhole stitch has been found.  More interestingly, a scrap of textile worked in twisted buttonhole stitch, a variation of buttonhole stitch, was found at Ordrup Mose and has been dated to the New Stone Age (Hald, p. 283).

Another interesting use for buttonhole stitch involves using it to create loops for a button, toggle, or similar fastener.  On her blog, "Research Dumping Grounds", Mistress Sylvie la chardonnière discusses Penelope Walton Rogers' analysis of 6th century CE Kentish finds" which indicate that Kentish women fastened their long coats with a brooch though such loops, worked in linen thread.

The lesson here, as is so often the case in examining archaeological textile finds, is not to import one's assumptions into the examination.  Many of us do not think of buttonhole stitch as embroidery, let alone an art that can create a textile, but it's clear from early finds that it has been used that way, and that use of needle looping (which is what the term "nalbinding" means) goes way back into the distant past.  Clothing technologies change, and any study of pre-modern costume must remain alert to that fact.

* Some people equate "buttonhole stitch" with "blanket stitch", but the two stitches, though very similar, are not the same. This site has a good explanation of the difference.  By the definition provided on the Nordic Needle, Hald's diagram of buttonhole stitch on p. 284 of "Ancient Danish Textiles" is actually blanket stitch, which is why I have not reproduced it here.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Random Insight

After wasting some more of my precious green yarn, I have succeeded in starting my second round on a green starting chain with reasonably even stitches.  The chain is kind of twisty-looking, but I think I can straighten it out.  This is fortunate for me, since I have yet to find the tapestry needle I could swear I've seen no more than six months ago.

Here's a more interesting nalbinding tidbit about nalbinding.  This costume blogger suggests that nalbinding may have come about as a way to use up loom waste--odd bits of thread cut from a loom during the cloth weaving process.  Her suggestion may not be provable, but in terms of carefully using every bit of handspun thread possible it makes a certain amount of sense.  I intend to think about it some more.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Starting Up Is Hard To Do...

Last night and this afternoon, I made more attempts to work on nalbinding stitches.

I think I do have the idea of how to work what the "Nalbinding From Finds" booklet calls "modified Dalby stitch", but I have trouble starting a chain in a way that does not fall apart after I start to work the stitch.   

So I've tentatively gone back to using Mammen stitch, and I've opened my green wool skein and attempted to work the starting bands for the mittens.  Several times.  It is very lovely yarn, both in color and feel. However, it is washable, which I didn't realize when I bought it.   I haven't tried felting joins in it yet (for reasons I'll get into below).

To my annoyance, I'm having trouble keeping a consistent stitch, and avoiding snagging my needle on previously worked stitches (and dragging the needle through a thread on a previous stitch).  

I'm also trying to work on joins, since joins were a big problem for me the last time I attempted nalbinding.  Spit joins are a problem for me (even with fully-feltable, no-wash wool), because I work at such a tension that they tend to come apart when I pull the joined section through a stitch.  So I've been attempting to do joins by placing both old and new threads in the eye of the needle, though that poses its own problems.

When I do succeed in working a section of stitching properly, the result is beautiful.  I really want to keep with this, in the hopes that once I conquer all of these problems, I will have mastered the basics of nalbinding and can go on to more interesting projects.  

In the meantime, I'm going to try another needle.  I have a metal tapestry needle around here somewhere that's significantly shorter than my beloved bone needle; perhaps that will help.

EDIT (9/30/2016):  I'm still making new starts.  I've started the first rounds of the cuff of a mitten several times now, but either twisted the chain or skipped too many connecting stitches.  Still forging ahead though.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The New Start

On Wednesday, both the nalbinding booklet I'd ordered and the yarn I intend to use for my first project from that booklet arrived in the mail. Clickable photographs of both appear with this post.

The colors of the yarn as shown in the photograph are close to their actual appearance. The gold yarn is a bit less reddish and the green a bit paler, but the general level of contrast between the two is accurately captured.

I was afraid that I would be unable to understand, let alone follow, the instructions in the booklet for how to work the Icelandic mitten or the Coppergate sock (the two items which I am interested to make my own versions of). However, the directions for both appear to be straightforward.   Best of all, it turns out that I don't need to know how to pivot to make either of these items. The mitten, in particular, merely requires you to do a chain of stitches of a specified length (determined by hand size), fasten the ends of the chain together with a stitch, and continue adding stitches around the resulting loop, increasing and decreasing (both pretty easy to do in nalbinding) as necessary. Fantastic!

The booklet includes instructions for three types of stitch I do not yet know how to do; Dalby stitch, York stitch, and Finnish stitch. Dalby stitch is used in the original of the Icelandic mitten I hope to recreate, while the Coppergate sock uses (naturally), York stitch.  I decided that I should at least experiment with both of these, using the remains of my snarled yarn from my false start at sprang, to decide whether I can learn the designated stitches quickly enough to use them for this project.  I should also practice making a ring out of a chain of stitches.

Making a chain of stitches in Mammen, the one nalbinding stitch I know pretty well, was simple enough, but understanding the authors' directions for both Dalby stitch and York stitch threw me, mostly because I couldn't see the starting position suggested for those stitches well enough from the pictures in the booklet.  So I turned to the Internet for pictures, videos, anything that might help.  So far I've found this video tutorial for York stitch which I think I can manage to use if I go through it slowly.

Late last night, after staring at the booklet instructions on Dalby stitch, I think I figured out what the instructions mean.  I tested my understanding this afternoon by doing a few inches of stitching.  It  was far from perfect, but appeared to be consistent with the illustrations in the booklet. I'll practice it some more, but I may end up attempting my first pair of mittens in Mammen stitch, just to be able to concentrate on the construction details for the mittens.

Progress is being made, though.  Onward!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Starting Over

It's no secret that I haven't managed to complete a historical costuming project yet this year.  Part of that is that this winter and spring were rough on me--I spent six weeks being sick, and nearly two weeks straight dealing with taxes (which took place while I was recovering from being sick), and then preparing for, and enjoying, our summer vacation. 

My first nalbinding project from years ago; a hat!  
Part of the problem was that at the time I got sick I didn't have a pending project that I could easily pick up and work on a bit at a time (which is how most of my costuming work, historically, has gotten done). So, in the hopes that something Brand New would inspire me, I decided to start a simple project, namely, a hairnet to be made using sprang, a textile art I'd never tried before.

Unfortunately, my attempt to learn and work sprang occurred in late February/early March, and shortly thereafter was when I got sick.  

This  weekend, I finally decided to attack my costuming malaise by making a fresh start on something I find less intimidating--nalbinding. The motivation here was to be able to use a new booklet by Susanna Broome and Iduna Sundarp I have just ordered that contains instructions on how to nalbind your own version of three Viking Age nalbinded finds.  This would allow me (I hope) to eventually make my own Viking socks, something I've wanted to do for a long time now.  In fact, that was why I picked up nalbinding in the first place.  

Years ago (long before I started this blog), I mastered enough basic nalbinding to do a passable Mammen stitch, make a slightly wonky beret with a ton of mistakes, and attempt a pair of mittens.  When I picked up my needle again, I discovered that it was pretty simple for me to relearn how to start and how to do the stitch, but I ended up wrestling with the fine art of pivoting (turning your stitch around so that you can start connecting to the first set of stitches you've done).  Fortunately, the tangled mess of yarns from my sprang experiment is useful for attempting nalbinding, since nalbinding is done with pieces of yarn, not a continuous thread.

I think I've finally re-learned pivoting well enough that I can make some sense of instructions about how to construct a sock or mitten, and my stitching is more even than it was the first time around.   In the spirit of new beginnings, I've ordered some yarn for my new project.  Though I haven't decided whether I'm going to try to make mittens or socks, I found some lovely colored yarn that was on sale cheap at an on-line yarn store, and couldn't resist getting some.

I still intend to go back to my sprang project (especially if business continues to be slow for me), but I would like to finally complete my learning of nalbinding and celebrate it with a lovely project.