If you’re looking for things to go to, or something to read, here are possibilities:

The EXAR conference, which will take place in Vienna on September 26 to 29, has its programme online. Registration is possible via their website, with a reduced fee if you register before August 15. As there is still space in their poster session, you are also welcome to hand in an abstract for a poster.

There will be a conference “Craftsmen and Metalworking in medieval cities: 35 years later” in Paris on September 12-14. The programme of the symposium is finished, but not available online yet; you can contact the organising committee via their website, though. Registration is open until September 5 or until the limited number of places is taken.

If you are looking for even more conferences, check out the “Conference” section on the RMBLF.be website, where there is a long list of all kinds of them, or the EXARC webpage.

Finally, the book thing – Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ninya Mikhaila are publishing “The Typical Tudor”, which will be delivered in May 2020. If you are interested in Tudor-era clothing, this might be an interesting book for you; read more about it on their website (where you can also pre-order).

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First things first: I love the EU. I love what it makes possible, and that it slowly, slowly brings us all closer together. The Euro has made things a lot easier (though it was certainly bad for my currency conversion maths-in-my-head skills!), and I think it’s the only way forward.

That said… the EU and its politicians do some really stupidly weird things. Such as moving the parliament once each month from Bruxelles to Strasbourg. For a week.

Here is a video (in German, sorry) about this insanity:

 

This is absolutely, utterly crazy. It’s an insane waste of time, money, and resources that could better be spent in other ways. Such as helping people who had to “travel” without wanting it (aka refugees). Such as financing more sustainable technology for travel and energy. Or a hundred other things.

I’m really, really taken aback by this. How on earth can this still go on, while everyone in the EU parliament (hopefully) is aware of the climate change, and of the need to work on a more sustainable lifestyle for all of us? Why have the green parties in the parliament not protested this again, and again, and again, until it stops? Or, if that wasn’t possible for them on their own, why isn’t this made more public so more people (like me) can get really upset, and think about how to change it?

Aaaaaargh. Can we please, collectively, all have more brain power? To use for making the world better, instead of more crazy, more hateful, more fearful and more insane?

Posted in and now for something completely different, things going on in the world | 1 Comment

One of the things that come with me whenever I am travelling, apart from the World’s Best Thermos Mug, is a set of cutlery. We actually bought that for our camping travels, when obviously you need cutlery, and I tried to get the most lightweight version possible. While my husband went for a three-piece set made from titanium (because that’s really nicely lightweight), I found a wooden set with four pieces (it includes a small spoon, and for some things, I just love using a small spoon). It was even lighter than the titanium one… but unfortunately, neither a wooden knife nor a wooden fork are really useful for many food items.

So after being annoyed with them for a while, tearing open breadrolls (or borrowing a real knife) and breaking apart instead of forking up things with the fork, I caved and bought a second set, this time in titanium as well, to replace the knife and fork. I kept the spoons, though. They are wonderful. When I’m travelling, the cutlery comes with me – in my travel bag or in my handbag, depending on whether the latter comes along or not. When I’m not travelling, though, it is stored with the rest of our camping gear. Consequently, sometimes it happens that I am somewhere and my handbag does not contain the cutlery… and I would need it.

I’ve now stumbled across a cutlery set from metal that is full-size, but will pack down as the individual pieces are screw-together, which sounds just like the thing to put into my handbag to live there, forever. It’s called “Outlery”, and it is currently running on Kickstarter for another two days. If that sounds interesting to you, too, here’s the link!

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It’s fully feeling like summer here, I’m working on the lace chapes and on fiddling some more (and better) with metal stuff and doing some fun tablet weaving on the side and sending off orders… and there’s the summer break coming up sort of soon, and before that, I need to get all the things done and prepared for Dublin.

Dublin! WorldCon! It’s all very, very exciting – if everything goes according to plan, I might get to be in a bit of the programme, and I will (that is definite) have a table in the Dealer’s Hall, and I’ll be able to spend time with some wonderful friends, and get to stay in a room at Trinity College (which is exciting all by itself). There will be tea, and Irish food (and I’m so looking forward to that already, too) and I will have two huge suitcases to lug with me.

So, to be all honest, it’s not only extremely exciting, it’s also a little bit scary at some points. For instance, it meant registering for VAT in Ireland. It means lugging two huge suitcases into a train and into an airport and through Dublin (not too far there, though, fortunately). It also means I have to decide what to bring to my sales table… as not everything I have will fit into the suitcases, and there’s a weight limit too, and you’d be surprised at how much some things weigh, and how bulky some other things are…

Anyway. Hasn’t someone somewhere at some point said you should do at least one scary thing per day, because it’s good for you? That’s what I sort of tell myself now. That it’s good for me.

And you know what? I actually do believe it. Plus I’m so looking forward to this weird wild sell-things-at-WorldCon-Shenanigan!

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Something that has happened to me time and again:

I look at some medieval Thing. I sort of try to figure out how it was made. I read up on more details of the Thing, and the Type of Things. I find out that there was quite some variation, and that some of the assumptions I made when seeing only Thing are not correct.

I read up more on Type of Things. I find something about it that sounds… weird. Like “how on Earth can that work” weird. “Whyever would you want to do that with this tool/material/method” weird.

I fiddle around some more with doing stuff. I try the weird-seeming tool, material, or method. I find it works brilliantly – much better than my own ideas that I used in my first tries.

I stand there, humbled, and realise again that living a couple of hundred years later does not make anyone automatically smarter, or better at doing something that was already successfully done, and developed to best efficiency, back then.

At least these days, I’ve been humbled often enough and learned enough about this that it does not take me very long to try out the original materials or (possible) methods… as opposed to when I was a teenager and getting started with Living History.

In the most recent case, by the way, the Things are the lace chapes, and the Weird Thing About Them was the indication that at least some chapes (possibly not all of them, but this is a tiny detail that may be hard to see or evaluate anyways, due to several different reasons) were riveted with an iron rivet.

Now, those chapes are tiny. (I mentioned that, right?) They are made from very thin brass sheeting, so once they are bent, they are a good bit stabler than the flat sheeting, but it’s still a relatively soft material. Iron is much harder than brass… but I did find that using a soft iron wire to make the rivet does work better than using a dedicated brass rivet (yes, you can get them in so tiny).

So. I stand humbled, and corrected, and will happily go on pounding the heck out of soft iron when riveting. (Very carefully, though, rather softly, and with a very small hammer. I lovingly call it my “Mädchenhammer”… my girls’s hammer.)

Now what is left to do is figure out how to offer these in the shop – which kinds of bands, which lengths of chapes, which lengths of bands. (Obviously, I’ll be able to make specific lengths on demand, but setting up the shop attributes for that might not work…) If you do Living History, use laces with chapes (or laces without them) and have comments for me, they are very welcome!

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I’ve been asked about proper, nice, authentic lace chapes again and again over the past years… so this has been on my list for ages now.

Lace chapes, for those of you not into medieval dress accessories, are like the plastic endcaps on shoelaces – they protect the lace from unraveling, and they make threading the lace through holes or eyelets much easier. Especially in the later Middle Ages, the style of dress for both women and men uses lots of laces to get things nice and tight-fitting on the body… and for all those laces, chapes are really handy.

The tiny problem is, though: The chapes you can usually buy today are way too large, and they are often cast, while the originals were made from sheet metal with use of a hammer and much smaller. How much smaller? Well. The modern ones I could find quickly when pretending to shop for some have a top diameter of about 5 mm. The medieval originals that I have nice documentation for have a top diameter of between 2 and 3 mm. That is… much smaller.

Most modern laces with chapes are also held together with a few stitches, while those original chapes that survived with lace in them are usually riveted to lock in the lace.

So recently, I have gotten some material to give this a try… then I played around some more. Then I bought some additional tools. Then I made some more tools. Fiddled around some more. Researched what was inside those chapes.

I’m getting there now. I can tell you, though: These things are tiny. TINY. And it’s incredibly fiddly to set those infinitesitiny rivets without bashing the chape itself to pieces…

…but I’m getting there. This is one of the latest prototypes I’ve made, with 2 mm diameter at the top. And just so you get an idea of the size, here’s a bigger one (with a good 3 mm diameter top) in my fingers:

I had originally planned to make these chapes and sell them, together with rivets, for customers to assemble with their band of choice. It looks to me, though, as if the originals were hammered close around the lace, then riveted for extra security. Even if you put this aside and assume it will be possible to stick enough of the lace into the closed chape, successfully setting a first rivet took me several tries, complete with totally bashed chapes. So I’ll have to offer the chapes mounted on laces, all set and finished, to save everybody’s nerves.

Which means I had to take a closer look at the laces involved…

Posted in all the gory details, medieval wardrobe, reconstructions, work-related | 2 Comments

When I started out trying to reconstruct how twill may have been tablet woven back in the Middle Ages, I had a list of things that the method would need to deliver – if you like being fancy, you could say I had a Requirement Specification. Apart from the obvious (has to work without written patterns, has to work with an indefinite number of tablets), one of my list items was “has to be robust” as in the system should be so workable that it is possible to stop at any time and take up the work again without a problem, and that it should be possible to weave while other stuff is going on in the vicinity, or while you’re not one hundred percent fit. Also obviously, weaving really complex patterns in fine silk on a wide band won’t work if you are bone tired and there is a bunch of people nattering at you – but to do simpler twill motifs, it should not matter if there is a group of others chatting in the same room, and you are keeping half an ear on it, occasionally joining into the chat.

Both the coffee cup weaving and the UFO weaving took place while there was a pen-and-paper roleplaying session going on in the same room, which for me sort of qualifies as “mildly distractive environment”. So for my expectations, the system is robust enough; it does happen occasionally that I forget to re-order a few tablets, but I usually catch this even before turning them, and if I don’t, it becomes really obvious right afterwards, and is easy to fix. (Turn the offenders back, sort, re-turn them.)

Something that happens even more occasionally, but that is much, much more of a nuisance: Forgetting a weft thread. This has really obnoxious results. First of all, it only becomes rather obvious a good while after the vile deed has happened, and I’m usually not willing to unweave two picks to fix the issue. Unfixed, the forgetting of a weft results in long floats across the width of the band, which can be very obvious if you are looking at the structure (or are a nitpicky person and are looking for mistakes). It actually happened twice when I was doing the UFO, see if you can find the spots:

Have you found them?

The second effect of forgetting a weft, which is at least as annoying, is that I use the side the shuttle hangs on as an indicator of what may or may not be done at that stage, pattern-wise. So having forgotten a weft, this changes, which can be confusing, even when using a marker on one side of the band to keep track of the “do-things-side” as opposed to the “maintenance-mode-side”.

I complained about this to the Most Patient Husband Of Them All, and he quite correctly said that there must be a way to see that the weft thread is missing… so we spent a while discussing all the possible ways we could, collectively, think of.

The end result was that since the missing weft causes a change in the band structure, it is possible to see it right after you turn the tablets and press in the shed. However, since every thread is only tied down by the weft every fourth pass, this means only every fourth tablet shows this structural difference – so it is visible, but it is very subtle.

Here is how it looks with the weft thread in:

And this is the same pick without the weft thread:

It’s no wonder I never noticed before when I had missed putting in a weft (and none of my students did when this happened in a workshop). Now that I know what to look for, though, I’ll keep an eye open for the telltale tiny gaps on the edge of the weaving knife when pressing in.

Are you occasionally forgetting the weft? Do you go back when that happens to you?

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