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?

Posted in all the gory details, tablet weaving | Leave a comment

I’ve done a bit more tablet weaving again recently, in preparation for the two courses that I’ll be giving (August 31/September 1, and September 14)… and, of course, things happened.

When at the last Textile Forum, one of the lovely people there gifted me with a bit of yarn in colours that I loved, and that was enough for a nice warp for a playband with 20 tablets. I’ve been wanting to do a simple playband anyways, with 20 tablets, as a demo band for my weaving lessons, or for explanations, so I happily did the warping, and my cunning plan for the weaving was to do variations on diagonals, as inspiration for course participants looking for pattern possibilities.

I started out doing this, and it went well for a while, resulting in things like this:

which was fine, and exactly what I wanted.

And then… then I got bored. Diagonals all the time… sigh. So I sort of by accident transitioned into twill, and then suddenly, well, this happened:

followed by this:

because obviously, what you really need to weave as motifs when working with a reconstructed historical weaving technique, are steaming cups of coffee and the UFO from Space Invaders.


Posted in tablet weaving, textile techniques and tools | 7 Comments

It’s been a while since you got a proper garden pictures post, so here you are:

The lavendar is coming into full bloom – and it’s being appreciated by the bees. As is the thyme that has taken over our lawn:

This is a somehow weird picture, but I like how the background came out.

We also have a space (you could call it a flowerbed, if you are feeling generous) where wild flowers such as the one above are growing in abundance. I’m extra happy about this one, which I’m seeing here the first time this year:

And finally, woad has managed to gain a foothold here – it’s doing its “second year thing” now, flowering and making seeds:


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If you like British humor stuff and history, chances are high that you have found out about “Horrible Histories“. If not (that is if not as in if you have not found out about them), it’s both books and film material showcasing things from history – usually gory, gruesome, or other unsavoury bits. They are doing a very fine job of turning history into songs as well, and one of my favourites is the Four Georges thing, here in a live version:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Al1zdtfAnG8″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

If you want more now, try to search for “Horrible Histories songs” on youtube (but don’t blame me for that time sink, please).

Long story short, Horrible Histories are now going to bring out a movie, as Microsoft News tells us (including the trailer). The movie will be in cinemas in Ireland and the UK this summer.


Posted in and now for something completely different | Leave a comment

Back in 2016, I decided to finally give in and get myself a smartphone. One of the reasons for this decision was that I wanted to offer customers on fairs the possibility to pay via card – and to do this with relatively small financial and logistical overhead, you need a smartphone.

So I did some looking, and some research, and I tried to find a phone with replaceable battery (as this can be one of the first things to give out, and being able to replace the battery means you can use the phone so much longer), relatively small so it would fit well in pockets, with decent battery life and not too highly priced. I finally ended up with a Samsung S5 mini – and I was quite happy with it.

Until… well. Until at some point, it did not get proper reception anymore. Even in places where it should have gotten very good reception – nothing. Some head-scratching and some internet research later, I had found that the phone has two antennae built inside, one for the “slow” stuff and one for the “fast” stuff (3G), and the fast antenna had died a quiet death. This was annoying, but no big deal – I changed the settings to never use the fast connection, and there it was, functioning nicely again. Yes, the internet was slower now – but I never stream things anyways, and all the bits that I needed to download occasionally are quite small. (The Most Patient Husband found me a prepaid phone tariff that was very, very small and thus very, very affordable, and just the right fit for what I would need. It has 150 MB of free data each month, which is plenty for checking mails, writing a few messages, and even sending a few pictures when away from home; for everything larger, I use wifi connections. So I’m very much used to not sending or downloading huge things over mobile data – and whether getting the mail takes 3 or 6 seconds, well, that’s no big deal.) It, however, meant more use out of the phone, and not needing a new one. Good for the environment.

My newfound serenity with the slow mobile data did not last very long, though, because apparently something else was giving up, and the phone became unreliable. It would refuse to connect, refuse to get messages or send them, and since that was one of the main uses for the phone when I’m doing stuff such as organising the Forum, I was getting antsy. I had expected the phone to last much longer than just a bit more than two years, which was making me quite unhappy – even though the thing itself still seemed like the perfect fit for my needs. My desire to spend another 180 or so Euros for a new phone of this make, for maybe another 2 years was, however, … very small. So I got myself a refurbished replacement phone… the same model, used and with slight traces of said use, with a new battery, for about a third of the new price. Also I had hoped to just very easily transfer my old phone’s contents to the new one. Same thing, should be easy, right?

The new phone arrived, and I found out that it was a branded one, with T-Mobile special software (sorry, apps…) on it. Well, no big deal. I managed to transfer my stuff (not as easy as I had hoped), and everything worked well for a bit. Then an Android update arrived, and afterwards, the phone would crash, or lag for ages until it reacted. Which is annoying for a phone that you want to use, but really and seriously not good for a phone used for, say, payment by card on a busy fair… One of the worst lags was about 14 minutes until I managed to access the home screen. So I was not happy anymore – but also did not want to buy yet another phone.

I finally decided that I could try to root the phone, in hopes to make things better – and reading the help pages and descriptions in an android forum, I found that there’s a way to overwrite the phone OS with a newer or different version (an un-branded one, for instance), which would not lose any data, not change the OS, and not void the warranty (not that I have one, but good to know). It’s called “flashing”, there’s a tool that Samsung offers called Odin (hah!), you download the proper firmware, follow the instructions and hope that it works.

That’s what I did… and it looks like that was successful. So in case you have similar troubles because your phone had some hiccup when the last firmware update arrived… you might want to trust in Odin making everything better, too.


Posted in computer stuff, green living, work-related | Leave a comment

Here’s more impressions from Lauresham:

First of all, the vinyard:

This time of year, everything was full of wild flowers, too.

Of course it’s not only fields and pastures and vinyard – there are the houses as well, which I have mostly omitted until now. Here they are, finally:

As you can surely guess, one of these houses was much more important for me to see than the others – the weaving house. We spent a little time inside that, so I could get an overview of the looms, tools, and loomweights available.

One of the permanently installed looms in the weaving house.

The house has three looms that are permanently installed there, plus a mobile loom that can be taken to wherever it is needed and used there. The looms are used for showing weaving technique to visitors, but also to test out things.

There’s also a bunch of differently-shaped loom weights available, as well as some other textile equipment. I am already looking forward so much to working with all this at the Textile Forum.

Posted in archaeology, museums, Textilforum | 2 Comments