Friday, September 30, 2011


So as you may have gathered I had surgery on my right hip about a month ago (late August, the day before Hurricane Irene came to town to be exact) and this has made much of my medieval crafting rather challenging for the last month.  Because I could not put any weight on the leg, I could not spin or weave or drive my car, nor have been able to sit in a normal upright position for much of the month.  The sitting part has been getting steadily better, I can now sit at the sewing machine for awhile anyway, though I have had to modify things at the ironing board so I can iron sitting down.  Trying to iron on crutches is about ridiculous as it sounds (I tried, I really did).  Staying in any one position for very long is still hard though, so I have not been making much progress on anything, which is is frustrating.

That should be changing though.  They cleared me to start putting weight on the leg last week, and today the doctor said I could drive!  Hurray!  Such a small thing, but being house-bound for over a month has been really challenging.  Just the psychological impact of knowing you can't go anywhere, never mind that you don't want to go anywhere or have anywhere to go, is pretty traumatizing.  Tomorrow I get to give it a try, we need to be sure I can stop the car quickly if I need to, but all indications are that it should be fine.  This also means I'm ok to spin at the wheel again, and work at the loom!  Yay!  So I can get back to working on the projects I want to be working on, at least in small bits.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Things have been a bit quiet around here for the past couple of weeks, partly because I've not been doing a whole lot of anything productive, and partly because I've been a bit distracted by a very off-topic project.  Outside of my historical crafty interests, I knit and make jewelry and am in the beginning stages of (hopefully) starting a small business selling some of these things (hence the etsy link you see on this site). mom took one of the jewelry pieces to a group she belongs to in California and long story short I'm going to be selling at a trunk show in November.  Yay!  So I've been trying to get my inventory built up, get a website with a shopping cart together, and get business card and all that fun stuff together, all while still hoping around on crutches and unable to drive.  Oh, and also going to physical therapy three times a week.

You can see the fruits of my labor-so-far here, at  If nothing else, there is a picture of Molly, my dog, modeling one of my dog sweaters on the home page.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A&S 50: Nine: Learn to Weave – Basic Tabby Structure, Rigid Heddle Loom

Tabby, also called plain weave, is the most basic of weave structures and a great place to start for new weavers.  For my first weaving project, I decided I use to use the small 24 inch rigid heddle loom I already had, and work with tabby (partly because rigid heddles work best for tabby and partly because I had almost no prior weaving experience).

The basic structure is very simple.  The weft threads travel over every other warp thread, alternating each row to create the weave.  This can be achieved with finger manipulation or needle weaving, but the rigid heddle makes manipulating the warp threads much quicker and simpler, allowing the weaving to raise or lower the threads all in one motion.  The primary disadvantage to this style of loom (aside from having only one heddle or shaft) is that the heddle is free-floating and doubles as the beater, making it difficult to maintain an even beat and keep the selvedges straight.

The cloth was tabby woven using a rigid heddle loom at 10 DPI at the full loom width of 24 inches. After weaving, the cloth was fulled in a washing machine. Pre-fulling, the weave was quite open and relatively even, though some areas were packed more tightly than others (this was my first major weaving project and the first time I had worked with a wool warp, so there was a bit of a learning curve in this process). After fulling, the weave evened out a great deal and packed down considerably. By the end of the fulling and dyeing process, the warp and weft were barely visible and a compact, water repellent fabric had been produced, as can be seen in the finished piece. This is significantly thicker and denser than the cloth used in the extant Dublin caps, but will serve as a useful warm layer at cold and wet events.

The cloth used to make my Dublin-style Viking hood had been intended for another project, but due to excess shrinkage in the fulling and dyeing process was not suitable for my intended use (a later period hood). After making a pair of mittens out of part of the length of fabric, I had a piece left which was just large enough to make this cap if I placed the fold along the back of my head rather than across the top (kismet!). As conservation of resources seems within the spirit of the time period, this alteration of the basic pattern seems to be plausible if not entirely supported by the archeology in Dublin and Jorvik.

Of the twelve caps and three remnants of caps studied in Heckett, nine of the caps and two of remnants are wool. All of the examples are tabby woven, with an even weave structure. All but one are classified as having an open weave. The wool caps are woven at a range of 12 to 23 warps per centimeter, with wefts ranging from 9 to 20 per centimeter. The cloth for all of the caps is lightweight and quite fine, and some of the silk is very delicate. At least some of the hoods seem to have been purpose-woven on narrow warps. All of the wool caps analyzed in Heckett have selvedges along two sides, while the silk caps all appear to have been cut to size from wider pieces of cloth. Most have not been analyzed for dye, but of those that have two were undyed, two showed traced of iron mordant.

Heckett, Elizabeth Wincott. Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin. Royal Irish Academy, 2003.

Walton, Penelope Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate,Council for British Archaeology, London, England 1989.

Viking Silk Cap, Yorkshire Museum (

Crowfoot, Elisabeth. Textiles and Clothing c.1150-c.1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 4. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1992.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A&S 50 Eight: Learn Tubular Tablet Weaving

For my second-ever tablet weaving project I decided to be ambitious (as usual) and challenge myself a bit by weaving tubular cords for small book bag. Such cords can be seen on a brick stitch pouch housed in the V&S and studied extensively by Master Richard Wymarc and several have been found used as seal tags and as strings for rosary beads (see Crowfoot and Myers).

The basic technique is quite simple - a few cards are threaded, usually all Z or all S, and all the weaving in carried out by always working from right to left (or left to right), carrying the weft thread under (or over) the work to create a tube. The band will spiral, or not, depending on which direction the weft is passed through the shed and whether you pass the weft over or under the band. Learning which combinations will produce the desired effect takes some experimentation, but a handy reference can be found in Cindy’s Myers article on the purse strings, at

My purse strings suffer from some unwanted spiraling, which due to my lack of technical understanding at the time, I was not readily able to control. I now realize that the areas free of spiral alternating with spiral were likely due to changes in the direction the cards turned. Had I turned the cards consistently in one direction, or changed the way I passed the weft when I changed my turning direction, I would have had a more consistent cord. I am looking forward to experimenting more with this technique as the cords produced are quite attractive and could be useful for many purposes. Unlike fingerlooped cords, there is no restriction on the length of cord that may be worked so this would be an excellent way to produce miles and miles of lacing cords.

Crowfoot, Elizabeth. Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London). Boydell Press, 2001.

Myers, Cindy. Tubular Tablet-Weaving; Identifying and reconstructing the hanging cord from a 14th century embroidered purse. ( Last accessed Sept. 11, 2011. Originally published in Spring 2008 issue of TWIST.

Bag 8313-1863. 14th cen. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Natural Dye Book

I actually have the first edition of Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, and was quite pleased this morning to find out that there is a new, revised edition out now as the first one had gone out of print. This is a wonderful introductory book on natural dyeing.  If you can only get one book on natural dyes, this would be the one to get!  This book has been indispensable for all my natural dying experiments.

That being said, the first edition had a few organizational issues which have hopefully been resolved in this new revision.  I'm tempted to order the new version myself just to find out, the book really is that useful.  A very nice chart telling you what mordants and assists work best with each plant is included on each page, with a color swatch giving you a general idea of what colors to expect from the plant, but in the first edition the key the symbols used was buried in a very strange place.  The problem is easily solved with a bookmark or post it, but finding that key in the first place (or when you lose your post it) can be quite aggravating. 

You also need to read all the general instructions first!  I know, I know, you want to jump right in and start working with that madder you got at Pennsic, but reading the general instructions at the start of the book will save you a huge amount of pain and suffering later on.  Then you can read up on the specifics of your dye plant, and get to work.  Dean does a good job of explaining the chemistry behind natural dying, and you need to have a basic understanding of this before you jump in.

For the history buffs, there is a short chapter on the history of dyeing at the start of the book that is a good starting off point for future research, but this is really a how-to book, not an academic one.  There is a lot of great historical information and period dye recipes available on the web to round out your A&S bibliography.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Not quite back

My Greenland hood project and the finished lattice bag were picked up this morning and should be on their way to 30 Year where they will be included in the open A&S display on Sunday, rather than the triathlon on Saturday.  It's not quite what I was hoping for, but at least people will still get to see my work, and hopefully give me some feedback, which is the whole point.  And I am basically halfway there if I decide to do the pentathlon for KASF, which seems a whole lot less terrifying than it did last year at this time.  My Laurel suggested that I try weaving some actual yardage, which I think would be a great project for that if I can find something within the right time period.  Handweaving (at least on a 4 shaft loom) and the 15th century don't really go well together, unless I want to do more of the Greenland textiles.  I'll think of something interesting to do, I just need to do it soon!  With the holidays and all I want to get any big projects well in hand as soon as I can.

I'm terribly disappointed in myself for not being able to finish the documentation for the lampwork rosary I posted pictures of last week, but given how much pain I've been in since the surgery it's really not surprising.  I don't know what I was thinking, expecting to write anything decent (or at all) while hopped up on percocet.   Things are getting better though, so I expect the writing will start moving along soon.  In the mean time, I've been doing some fairly mindless and totally modern knitting in between naps.