10 Days to go

Here’s the progress report for my Pentathlon entries:

  1. Smokkr: need to redo the darts with correct thread. Documentation is ready, save a photo.
  2. Serk: working on seam finishing. Seams finished up to knees, hem done, one sleeve almost done. Documentation needs polish.
  3. Whorl: done! Documentation has background data and shows how my whorl matches stats of extant whorls, but I need to write up how I did it.
  4. Yarn: I need to spin the wool that was combed with the Viking combs. I have my spinning history appendix already in existence, but I need to write up this particular project.
  5. Dyeing wool: I have the supplies. This is the task for the weekend. Documentation is started.
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Twelfth Night

Atlantia Twelfth Night was this past Saturday. Since I made the website this year, I had a busy time of updating all the table reservations for feast the last couple weeks.

The site was pretty, and everyone’s garb looked great. I didn’t make any Ottoman garb for the event. I am busy enough with the Viking project! I spent several hours at the event sitting at a table sewing and chatting, and Lady Álfrún Ketta brought me a copy of “Tools for Textile Production from Birka and Hedeby” to get spindle information from. My own copy has still not arrived. Ox Bow Books is out of stock on them. Lady Teleri brought along her first attempt at brocaded tablet weaving.

Last week I took a break from my Viking sewing to finish eyeleting one of the dresses I’d started for Lady Amber. We have an arrangement: I make her pretty things, she buys me pretty things. She gave me the lovely blue wool I used for my apron dress. The dress I finished last week was part of that arrangement, but we agreed I would work on more dresses for her, and she would get me a Spanish Peacock spindle. Master Miguel from the Spanish Peacock sells lovely, extremely well-balanced fiber tools that are in high demand and sell out quickly. Not knowing how long until we’d next see him in stock on supported spindles (seeing as he hasn’t merchanted at an SCA event in two years, always having been out of stock due to mundane selling alone), she bought me a supported spindle with a padauk whorl. She also bought herself a lucet so I can have the one I lent her back.

Oh, I figured out something imporant: if you just have one hole in your sleeve and one in your shoulder strap, and you’re using a linen fingerloop braid to tie them together, do a half knot (like before you tie your shoes) before doing your one-loop bow. The bow will just keep untying til you do.

Court was full of surprises. Lady Devin was called into court and given an Opal for her services, and Their Majesties mentioned to all assembled that Lady Devin has a little one on the way! I was also called in and given a Coral Branch. And then, just as Meisterin Johanna was sitting at our table sewing and whispering to the person next to her that what? oh, no, she doesn’t have any A&S awards, not even a baronial one, but she’s happy to keep teaching folks in the barony how to make garb…Their Excellencies Storvik walked into court and said there had been a grave injustice done, and they wished to correct their predecessors’ error, and they called Meisterin Johanna into court. She looked up and shouted “ME?!” dropped her glasses and headed up. She then received the Owl (our table howled with laughter), quickly followed by His Majesty stepping down from his throne to also award her a Coral Branch. Lady Rayhana also received an Opal, after all the work she did organizing Twelfth Night.

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Viking Pentathlon Progress

I finished the hangerock/smokkr and wore it for that wedding in October, but I didn’t do the under dress.

I kind of didn’t do much related to the pentathlon for a little bit (my basement filled with sewage, and the shed is being replaced due to water damage, so my house is not a very usable space right now), but this week I got back to it.

Some reading I did a few weeks ago suggested Spælsau was the correct sheep for 10th century Danes to be working with, but I couldn’t figure out where to buy Spælsae fleece. They’ve also been interbred a fair bit recently. So I went for Icelandic instead. They’re pure-bred, no other sheep in Iceland for a thousand years, and they’re double-coated like Spælsau. They’re pretty similar, and they were found around Scandinavia at the correct time, so I think it’s close enough.

photo of a bathtub containing wool that looks very brown due to dirt
Cleaning Icelandic wool in the bath tub
clean white Icelandic wool drying on a sweater rack
Drying the clean wool

This week I washed a pound of Icelandic fleece and started combing it with the Valkyrie mini combs  a friend lent me. Álfrún Ketta wanted to know how using 2-pitch combs is going, since most people use single row combs for double-coats. I’m not having trouble getting the thel off the combs, but I am intentionally stopping before it’s all off, simply because I don’t want all those neps and noils going into my worsted yarn! Well, then I looked up what Indigo Hound standard Viking one-row combs cost and ordered some. I’ll compare the output of both kinds of combs. They’ll show up while I’m out of town for the holidays.

Icelandic combs up beautifully
Icelandic combs up beautifully
a distaff of line flax on the left and the spinning wheel on the right with a line of handspun linen thread between
wet spinning linen sewing thread

Speaking of being out of town for the holidays, I figure I’ll spend a lot of time during that trip hand sewing the under dress. I have a spool of linen thread, but it’s bleached, and the fabric isn’t, and I don’t really want my stitches showing, right? That’s ok, I’ve spun linen thread at two demos this year (because I knew everyone else would spin wool). When I unwound all the linen on my spindle and a bobbin a couple months ago, there was not enough to sew a whole dress. So I spun up what was left of my flax. The result was 13g and 104yd. If you do the math, that’s 3629yd/lb or 12 300yd hanks/lb, making it a size 12/1.

small hank of handspun linen thread
hank of linen

Can I sew a dress in 12 days? I’m doubtful, but we’ll see.

I’ve ordered a copy of Tools for Textile Production from Birka and Hedeby because that’s the book I’ve seen others citing regarding spindle whorls in Hedeby. From people citing it, it looks like the class I took on flat soft-stone whorls will be very helpful.

Then I’ll spin the Icelandic wool on a spindle using the stone whorl I’ve made. We’ll see, I might even manage 4 separate hanks:

  1. Worsted, 1-pitch comb
  2. Worsted, 2-pitch comb
  3. Woolen, wool carded from remainder of 1-pitch comb
  4. Woolen, wool carded from remainder of 2-pitch comb

I’m not sure there’ll be much noticeable difference between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4, but that’s why it’s an experiment, right?

I mentioned before nålbinding as a possible thing I’ll do. I did take a class on it in September, but I’m not aware of any particular artifacts from Denmark, so I need to do some more checking around.

I also need to spend some time over the holidays reading from NESAT X, Thor Ewing’s “Viking Clothing,” and Patricia Baines’ “Linen: Handspinning and Weaving,” among various other article I’ve got piled up, to get my documentation in order. At Baron Badouin (OL) ‘s suggestion, I’m converting what I’ve written so far into a set of reusable appendices. I’d like to make sure those appendices are well fleshed-out, though I know with every project I’ll find something that needs to be added to one of them.

And just to go into geek mode regarding that, I’m doing it with LaTeX, a typesetting language. I’ll have a file for each appendix and a file listing all my sources, and then I just include them at the end. There’s a bunch of configuration header that makes it so all the bibliography, table of contents, list of figures, etc. come out right when it generates a PDF. Here’s what it looks like:

\title{Icelandic wool yarn}
\author{Grazia Morgano}

\chapter{This project}
Project-specific documentation goes here
See the appendix on spindles (\ref{subsec:spindles})



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Fabric, Fiber, Fighting, & Fencing

This weekend I went up to Æthelmearc for Fabric, Fiber, Fighting, & Fencing. I took a tablet weaving class and a class on Anglo-Saxon spindles that was followed by a session on stone spindle whorls.

The weaving class used a tiny two-posts-and-a-board loom. We spent the first hour warping, then finally wove with 4-forward/4-back turning pattern. I need to work on my weft tension, but anyway, when I filled up the warp threads as far as I could given the tablets take some space, I popped up and bounced over to where Mistress Brienna, Mistress Megan, and Master Herveus were weaving. They’re all weaving Laurels. I held out the loom to Brienna and said “lookie!” like a proud child. The weavers in that corner all seemed to agree that the threaded-in technique I was being taught for the colors was a bit out of period. Brienna told me she’ll teach me later how to warp up in under 10 minutes, using a continuous warp, and weaving woven-in patterns (where the color pattern is determined by how many times I turn individual tablets, rather than by threading colors a certain way and always turning all the tablets at once). A couple hours later, as I was sitting with Megan, her apprentice sister warped up with Herveus, so I got to see how continuous warping is done.

Mistress Rhiannon taught a class on Anglo-Saxon spindles. She recreated at least a dozen spindles from different times and places and compared and contrasted them. It was really interesting getting to try and see how they spin differently. We got to try flat glass whorls, flat wooden whorls, spherical lead whorls, and stone whorls. She had one with a hemispherical whorl at the top, and one where a flat wooden whorl dropped onto the top over the hook to rest in a groove at the top of the spindle. She asked me for feedback afterward, since she’s only taught the class one other time (at Pennsic, and when she tried to put distaffs in with it, she ran out of time), and I told her I’d love to see a chart or something to show trends over time and place to place, rather than just having the raw data of each place and time. She liked that idea.

After her class, Master Bedwyr (her husband) led a demonstration showing how he made slate whorls. He said after he made the first one, Rhiannon tried to spin on it, and informed him it sucked. So he had to refine his process. I took a lot of notes about what tools he recommended for which parts of the process and tips he had to avoid accidentally shattering the slate. Somewhere in there, Rhiannon said something that made me realize THIS could be what I do for my non-string item in the Persona Pentathlon. I said this to Rhiannon, and she told me to make sure I copied down the URL for a certain research paper she’d found useful.

In the evening, there was a spinning salon. We talked about combs and plying techniques and Woolie Winders and compared our spinning wheels. All the while, I was spinning up some very beautiful wool into yarn for the Queen’s shawl. For those not familiar, it is customary in Atlantia for the Spinners Guild to spin yarn to be woven into a shawl for each new queen (ones who are not already Ladies of the Rose).

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Viking Progress

Saturday I went to the Library of Congress, which seems to be the only place in the United States that has a copy of “Die Textilfund aus dem Hafen von Haithabu.” I now have a lot of German to throw at online translation programs until I get something that makes sense.

I ran out of thread while sewing the smokkr, but I ordered more, and it arrived Friday or Saturday. My weekend was full enough that I’m not quite sure. Anyway, the last seam is now finished, and the hem around the top of the dress is done, and the hem around the bottom is about a third done. After that, I need to put in the darts, add shoulder loops, and attach the trim.

Today, while I happened to be working from home (because my horseless carriage decided it would work better with the horse), my lace bobbins arrived. Braiding and bobbin lace are similar enough that they are a fantastic tool to have (along with the rolly pillow) for making the six-strand braid to replicate what’s on the original textile find. I have about a yard of trim done. I need a bit over 2 yards. Handily, this is something I can take anywhere—I was lucky enough to have my lace pillow come out just the right size to fit in the basket I picked up at Pennsic.

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Cloak linings and arm slits

There are three things I’ve heard about cloaks in period, that my cloak plans had the possibility of violating:

  1. They didn’t wear full circle cloaks in period.
  2. They didn’t line cloaks in period.
  3. Arm slits are 19th century.

Well, yesterday I picked up a copy of The Borgia Chronicles, because you just don’t find $20 coffee table books with that many gorgeous reproductions of period paintings all that often. Since my lord is from 15th century Aragon, this seemed potentially useful. Well, guess what I found?

The Virgin of the Catholic Kings, c. 1491
The Virgin of the Catholic Kings, c. 1491

Hey look, a painting from the 1400s where the prince (front left) is wearing a cloak with arm slits, and what looks like a green lining on a blue cloak. If you don’t believe that’s a contrast lining, look at the princess’s red overgarment with white lining.

So, the full circle part of my cloak might still be wrong, but I now have an answer to anyone who tells me linings and arm slits aren’t period.

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Persona Pentathlon planning

Last winter I decided I was going to enter the Persona Pentathlon at KASF this winter. A few months ago, I decided the Eleonora dress would set the theme.

I’ve also recently been seeing a lot of really good-looking Norse garb from a blog called Saewulf. At Pennsic, while standing in a fabric store and looking at some blue wool twill, I mentioned to Lady Babs of Bonei that I wanted to make a nice Norse outfit out of wool, and have it be winter garb. At this point she reminded me that we are going to a Norse wedding the first weekend of October, and I have nothing to wear. Then, she bought me 2yd of the wool to make a hangerock, because I’ve been doing a lot of handsewing for her.

When I got home from Pennsic I started researching. I’m going to do the outfit based off the Haithabu/Hedeby find Inga Hägg detailed. It’ll be all handsewn, and I went to an embroidery shop to find matching blue wool thread.

So, now I have a hard deadline of October 3 to finish the Norse outfit. I don’t think there’s going to be time to do the Florentine PP to the level I expect of myself.

New plan!

At KASF 2014, I will enter:

  1. Hangerock
  2. Serk
  3. Nålbind socks
  4. Handspun, dyed yarn
  5. …something else, maybe get back into metalcasting?

At KASF 2015, I will enter:

  1. Eleonora dress
  2. Linen chemise blackworked in silk with handmade bobbin lace trim
  3. Hairnet
  4. Calligraphy
  5. Hand-dyed embroidery silks
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Studying Hairnets

Lately I’ve been researching hairnets. I own two crocheted snoods, but there is no evidence of crocheted snoods in period, and little in the way of solid evidence of crochet at all (most would say there is none before 1800, but a few think “nun’s work” means crochet).

silk hairnet, worked in alternating stripes of large white loops and small green loops, with small shield decorations placed all over
early 14th century silk hairnet in Heidelberg

I have, thus far, located photos of several extant 14th century hairnets. These are clearly netted in the round, as perfect circles. The center of the netting would therefore land where it does on modern crocheted snoods: between the crown and the nape of the neck.

photo of a white hairnet/cap with a gathering thread at the bottom, netted in a pattern of large and small diamonds.
16th century hairnet at Lienz
photo of a brown hairnet, longer in the back than on top
16th century hairnet at the Belgium Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage

I’ve also found photos of two extant 16th century hairnets which both have one flat edge, bearing resemblance to the hairnets found on 1490s-1500s portraits, where the bottom edge is straight across (in one example, with a gathering ribbon still in place), so that a braid may emerge from under the back. One of these has the familiar “starburst” shape that accompanies netting in the round, but it is placed at the crown of the head. It seems they must have switched from round to working flat around a semicircle to create the long part that hangs down the back. The white one one in the black and white photo may be done the same way, or, given the appearance of the horizontal stripes, may be seamed as I describe below.

photo of a carved relief showing Cosimo I de Medici facing right with two children at his side and Eleonora di Toledo facing left with two children at her said. She is wearing a beaded hairnet.
de Rossi’s relief of Cosimo, Eleonora, and their children

Several examples of recreations have been done by sewing or gluing ribbons together, on a grid. At first I wondered if this could be correct, given the flat appearance of the material shown on  Giovanni Antonio de Rossi’s relief of “Cosimo I, Eleonora di Toledo, and their children” and the square (not vertically-stretched diamond) shape of the work on Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis’s “Portrait of a Lady.” The relief, at least, does seem to show something as flat as ribbon. And sewing beads over the join would be easy enough to do, but is it correct? I can’t rule it out, though I think it sounds more time-consuming to secure a thread, sew several stitches to hold the ribbons together, and then secure the other end, than to tie a single knot per join.

There is no way to see the back of Eleonora’s head to see if the starburst exists there, and while “Moda a Firenze” has a section devoted to her hairnets and how she styled her hair under them, there is no information about their construction. Sheila Barker’s research into the 1545 Bronzino painting of Eleonora and her son shows that the partlet she wears (which appears to match her headwear) was indeed netted.

Portrait of a Lady, 1490
Portrait of a Lady, 1490

Reading more about netting, I learned that a square mesh is easy enough to do—work a diamond mesh from only 2 foundational loops, increasing at each row-end, then decrease at row-end, and finally tie off. That makes a diamond full of diamond mesh. Rotate 45°, and you have a square mesh! I was uncertain about this at first because I thought there might be sagging problems, but people who have actually tried netting* say it works and is how tennis nets are made. As well, in “Portrait of a Lady” there are very clear netting knots (sheet bend, which makes an X-shape) at every intersection. I suspect that the way to get the bead in place when using netting is to pinch the loop before netting into it, push it through the bead, and then work below the bead, before sliding the bead into place over the knot. Once stretched out, the bead would not have the choice of moving off of the knot.

image of the back of several women kneeling in prayer
fresco at Monte Oliveto

The fresco at Monte Oliveta by Il Sodoma shows two women from behind both wearing snoods! One shows a square mesh, the other diamond. The one with the square mesh appears (and it may be artistic license) to have all of her squares lining up with her part. Perhaps this was a square of netting, folded in half and sewn on the short edges, to create a shape like that of a hood. For shaping purposes, I think a few decreases at the center in the rows prior to the seam would make sense. The woman next to her appears to have all of her diamonds pointing to the crown of her head, as in the extant snoods which begin in the round and end flat.

As I come across more sources, I am storing them on my Zotero account. You are welcome to look.

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Hey look, sleeves!

me in a pink 1580s Italian dress in a classroom
After a demo in a middle school

Well, I finally finished the pink dress, trim and sleeves and all. Immediately after finishing it, I sewed a green wool tunic for a friend, so he and his wife (who wore my blue dress) could come to Defending the Gate. We shot a lot of archery. I was sore for a couple days after.

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Kingdom Arts & Science Festival AS XLVII

A few weeks ago, I attended the Atlantia Kingdom Arts & Science Festival. I displayed both my wool yarn and the pink gown. The pink gown was displayed without sleeves because 2am rolled around and I went to bed. I will be posting the documentation along with pictures (with sleeves!) soon.

Mistress Nuala (who joined the Order of the Laurel at Twelfth Night) gave me homework: bring back pictures of all the scribal projects on display. While there I also learned to make gnocchi. We made several hundred for feast.

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