The cat, bless her little furry behind, has the luxury of hanging out on the couch, or on her cat beds, and sleeping as much as she likes… which she has liked to do a lot these past days, when it was rather cold here. Again. Seems like winter is making a last-ditch, all-out effort to do things properly, including snow and so on.

Well, spring can’t be long now… though it’s still not clear whether I will get on top of things well enough to avoid a mad rush before the first fair of the year, which is on April 7 and 8. Not very long to go, is it?

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Sometimes, things tend to cascade into other tings to do. Today is a prime example of that happening. Things I did today?

Restocking my spinning kits was one of the tasks due. The wool bits were already stacked on the table (I did that when taking stock of my fibre supply a few days ago), so all that remained was… well. Printing out instructions, for one, which cascaded into going over the text and tweaking it a bit, and then having to tweak some more, and then the actual printing, which half-way done required me to change toner cartridge. Thank godness we had one on hand, ordered ahead of time, or I’d have gotten stopped dead right then and there. Then it was getting the proper weight-range whorls out of the unsorted supply, which meant getting out the scales, weighing them, and putting them onto spindle sticks. I also found that I’d run out of the sealable bags I use upstairs, so that meant a trip into the basement for some more, and I also brought back some more boxes which then had to get stamped with my address to make them ready for use.

Then it’s the assembly line: Fold instructions (2 sheets of paper each), stick them into a bag, add three samples of wool, add a spindle, add a business card, press out air, seal the bag. Repeat until you run out of one of the ingredients, and then either get more of that one, or put the rest away and stop altogether.

Restocking something also means adjusting numbers in the shop system, which means I usually take a look at other stuff in there and check if everything is still correct… and that usually leads to litle tweaks and checks here and there.

Which, as we all know, tends to eat up time… so here I am, with still plenty of things on the to-do list for today, and the afternoon almost gone. But at least things are printed, new tweaks are made, some other things have made it onto the ever-growing to-do list, and I’m a little closer to being ready for the start of wool fair season.

There’s still so much niddy-noddy stuff right in front of my nose, tantalizing, but, alas, other things have to happen before this. Soon, though. Soon.

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One of the leads to more depictions of yarnwinders (from two people, independently, the Internet is a small place after all) was to the North Porch portal of Chartres cathedral. There are, among many other things, scenes from the active life as opposed to the contemplative life, and the active life shows women at textile work.

I had a little rootle around to find out a tiny bit more about the portal, and the sculptures, including their date, and quickly found that Chartres has a lot of info online. For instance, there’s a very cool overview about the programme on the portals by Alison Stones, done in collaboration with the Uni of Pittsburgh, and which you can find here. The Uni of Pittsburgh also has a searchable database with images from Chartres, accessible here.

So if you feel like looking at some sculptures and some stained glass – enjoy!

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As usually when I’ve been away for a few days, there is plenty of things stacking up that need to be de-stacked and processed and done and so on. So I’m trying to get back on track, whittling the mails down to the usual stack sitting in the inbox (where everything sits that still needs some action), plus all the usual suspects of ton the to-do list.

Also there’s a private lesson to be given this afternoon, which I’m looking forward to – but which I also have to prepare. So instead of something dep and interesting and whatnot, you are getting a picture of the Bernuthsfeld man’s reconstruction legwrap, during the process of giving it the holes and patch that it has on the original:


It’s actually not that easy to fake usewear traces. Holes are rather easy, but as soon as you are trying to have different usewear patterns, it really does get more complicated.

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I’m back home, my colleague is back home, and the Bernuthsfeld Man reconstruction is home, too. He has a lovely spot in the OLME in Emden now, right at the end of the exhibition part about the find and the time, so you’re getting a look at the original finds, then information about research and the context of how life was in the 8th century, and then, at the very end, he’s waiting for you to look him in the eye.

To our great delight, the museum people were just as happy with how our reconstruction turned out as we are, and there was immense interest from the press. We got covered by several papers, such as the Sächsische Zeitung, the General-Anzeiger (behind a paywall, but you can see a pic), and the Hannoversche Allgemeine (again, paywall but a visible pic). We even made it into the TV news!

But obviously, you’re waiting for a picture right here, right? Here you go:


Our reconstruction, in the setup that he can be seen in at the museum.

We thought long and hard about how to dress the figurine in a way that shows all his equipment, including the small cloak/blanket he had, and still shows off as much as possible of the tunic. Because while the small cloak would also be interesting to show in action, it will cover up quite a lot of the main piece:


So we decided to wrap it up, tie it together with the wool cord he also had with him, and hang it on his belt. The belt actually had a spot where something heavy obviously hung for a good long time, or very frequently; we placed the blankie-pack in that spot, and you can see what happens in the next two pictures.

bernie4 bernie3

The belt suddenly sits at a bit of an angle, and everything looks a little more lifelike of a sudden. Also the worn spots at the tunic coincide exactly with the places where the belt sits and rubs against the cloth… to our great delight.

So now he’s in the museum, and if you’re in the area, go visit him in the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum Emden. And if you do so, say hello from me!


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Well, not completely destroy – but it is finally the time to finish the Bernuthsfeld tunic by adding some bits of usewear, mounting it on the shiny new figurine and then setting it up in the museum. Which means I’m off for exactly that until Tuesday late at night, so you’ll get the next blog entry on Thursday next week.

I’m all excited to see how the ensemble will look – and I do hope the museum people will be just as delighted with the outcome of the tunic reconstruction as my colleague and I!


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So, after finding out that my drawing skills are indeed horrible, let’s look a bit more at diverse instances of yarnwinders in actual historical artwork. Images of yarnwinders are not that straightforward to find, so I’ve been using the yarnwinder linklist by larsdatter.com as a starting point. Things listed in the following without links are from that list.

There’s also some yarnwinders listed as utensils in the Morgan Pierpont library database, which is very nice. These are also referenced to without links, but you can identify them via call number.

If you know of more yarnwinding pictures, please let me know!

And now on th the actual images. Well. They vary greatly. Some of the later ones are very clearly showing the perpendicular crossbars and are also accurate regarding yarn path. Examples for these are, from the larsdatter list,

Peasants by the Hearth (Pieter Aertsen, 1560s)
Man and Woman by the Spinning Wheel (Pieter Pietersz, c. 1560-1570)

Base-de-page, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (PML M.917, fol. 109), c. 1440. This is also on the PML list, Call No.: MS M.0917/945, p. 109.

Portrait of a lady spinning by Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1531. This yarnwinder also has diagonal struts between the crossbars and the middle stem – something that might add even more to the confusion of images.

A visit to the wet nurse by Marten van Cleve (third quarter 16th century) shows a winder with very straight arms (on the partition wall close to the door at the right side of the painting).

An old man by Lucas Kilian also has the correct yarn path, and also looks like it has diagonal struts between crossbars and stem.

In addition to these from the larsdatter list, there’s the bonus lady riding the pig, from the 1460s manuscript mentioned yesterday.

And from the PML list, Call No.: MS M.0230, fol. 003v – Flight into Egypt, dated to 1435.

There’s also a variation of the yarnwinder with an extra handle coming out of the bottom end, and usually a little knob or short bit of rod at the upper end, showing a similar yarnwinding pattern to my very crude drawing from yesterday – one V-shape that has its point in the middle of one of the crossbars and two upright strands of yarn.

Again, the larsdatter examples:
Both examples from the Maastricht Hours (Brit.Lib. Stowe 17), 1st quarter 14th century.

However, there’s a second winding pattern that can be seen, and that is an X shape with two parallel yarn strands at the sides. Examples for this kind of picture can be found both with handled and with handleless yarnwinders. Again, from the larsdatter list:

Mural cycle showing the processing of silk and flax at the Kanonikerhaus in Constance, Germany, c. 1320: a woman winds (linen?) thread (handled; image is hard to read)

An ape holds a spindle and winder, psalter (Douce 6, fol. 48r), c. 1320-1330 (non-handled, cross is at the back)

Adam and Eve, a book of hours (Douce 248, fol. 207r), middle of the 15th century (handled, cross very clear)

Finally, there are some winding patterns that differ again.
An ape winds wool, Voeux du paon (PML G.24, fol. 15r), c. 1350 shows just an X shape, with no extra upright yarn strands, and
A woman winds thread from a spindle, the Hours of Charlotte of Savoy (PML M.1004, fol. 96r), c. 1420-1425 seems to show the same pattern, though the picture available online is very hard to read, as it’s very light.

From the PML list: Pierpont Morgan Library M.453, France, c 1425-1430 has a lady with a handled yarnwinder with X pattern on fol. 114r. Call No.: MS M.0453, fol. 114r

Also from the PML list: Call No.: MS M.0919, fol. 232v, early 15th century. I do not think that Call No.: MS M.0919, fol. 164r from the same manuscript shows a yarn winder – it looks more like a cooking stand or something similar to me.

Back to larsdatter – Veturia, De mulieribus claris (BNF Fr. 599, fol. 48v), 15th-16th century, is completely different again – here the yarn is wound straight around the parallel crossbars of a handled yarnwinder, no crossings whatsoever.

For both the long-handled one and the handle-less one, some images look like the crossbars are parallel, and some like they are perpendicular.
Old woman spinning (the niddy-noddy is next to her on the bench), 16th century shows an empty handled yarnwinder, with the crossbars clearly not parallel, but not properly perpendicular either.
Standing woman with winding tools by Andrea del Sarto (late 15th to early 16th century) also shows an empty handled version, crossbars perpendicular.

PML Call No.: MS M.0754, fol. 080v has a yarnwinder in a bird’s beak in the upper margin, though whether this is an empty one with struts or a filled one is not possible to tell.
PML Call No.: MS M.0754, fol. 067v shows the same yarnwinder again, same style (which is to be expected in the same manuscript). That manuscript seems to have been yarnwinder central, actually – fols. 22r and 21v also show yarnwinders. Date is 1320-1329.

So. Plenty of different types, plenty of different winding patterns. Next step? Finding out if there’s a pattern somewhere. Which will work even better with more pictures, so if you have something to add to this list, please comment!

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