Thursday, June 30, 2022

Knitted Cord, Revisited

Years ago, I wrote more than one post on the subject of lucets, specifically oriented toward discussing the subject of whether the Vikings used lucets, or a similar knitting technology.   

This month, Piecework magazine has published an article on "knitting nancies," or knitting spools, spool knitters, or corkers, or any one of more than half-a-dozen other names for a simple device that makes square cord that is similar in appearance and structure to luceted cord.  The Piecework article can be read here

The author of the Piecework article,  Mary Polityka Bush, does not discuss the Victorian lucet, or the controversy about whether the Vikings used lucets (and if so, what they might have looked like).  She merely discusses what she was able to discover about the device from early modern times (i.e., late 16th century and later) onward.  

What Ms. Bush found isn't much!  She found a suggestion that a kind of "knitting frame" might have been in use as early as 1535 and that such a device was permitted to be used by professional knitters.  She also discusses modern variants of the two-peg knitter, and that such "spool" knitters could come with different (even) numbers of pegs.  But most of her article is anecdotal evidence of the use of spool knitters by 20th century fiber artists, and lovely, full-color photographs of different modern spool knitters.  

So the evidence for the invention and development of modern "spool knitters," like the evidence for Viking-era lucets, is similarly anecdotal and inconclusive.  It is even possible that the Vikings or another early people invented the "lucet" but that the invention was lost, and later reinvented--possibly more than once.   That's one reason I keep posting my little articles on the subject of knitted cord.  Maybe through collecting such snippets I may eventually locate enough information to make an attempt at solving the mystery.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Costume History--on Quora?

A few months ago, I read, on Quora, a piece about a historical costume fact of which I was ignorant, and which was genuinely interesting.  The piece can be read here (scroll down to the answer by Randy Long, former retired systems engineer; that's the piece I mean).

The gist of the article is that, in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, when men in America and Europe typically wore suits as a everyday matter, suit jackets were cut differently.  Specifically, they were cut with higher armholes, that conformed to the torso much better, and as a result those jackets did not ride up when the wearer raised his arms, in the way that men's suit jackets (and women's suit jackets, for that matter) do today.  So the earlier suit jackets looked nicer and, in addition, were more comfortable to wear.

Why the change?  Because it was a lot cheaper to make ready-to-wear jackets with the low armholes--particularly for the ready-made clothing market.

If I ever make enough money again, I will order one custom-made suit, I think, with proper armholes.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

April HSM Project

April already.  Wow, has the time flown.

Between financial activities (work, taxes) and political (don't ask) activities, I have had little time to even think about this blog for the last two months.  However, I do have a happy development; I have decided upon an HSM (Historical Sew Monthly) project for April!  

April's HSM theme is "Bags."  I finally decided to buy myself a replica of the Great Bulgarian bronze mirror find, which is barely 2 inches (about 5 cm) across, for my birthday.  Though it's not a "Viking" piece, it's not impossible that a Viking might have obtained such an item through trade.  All I'd need to make a small drawstring bag to protect it is a small scrap of wool and a similarly sized scrap of linen, seamed together wrong side to wrong side in such a way that the seam allowances do not show, with a channel seamed in near the top for a closure.  I think I still have a small amount of thin cord that I could use as a drawstring, but if not I could probably braid some from thread if need be.  

It would be a very quick project, which is the sort of thing I need right now.  Wish me luck in actually finishing it before May!

P.S.  The blue cord I use to close my bag of (speculative) Viking age toiletries is perfect in thickness for the little bag I have  in mind, but is way too long.  I might cut some of the extra length off and use it for the little mirror bag.  

 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Archaeological Textiles Review No. 63

At the beginning of this month, Issue No. 63 of ATR, i.e., the 2021 issue of the Archaeological Textiles Review (formerly Archaeological Textiles Newsletter, or ATN) was made available for free download.  ATR is published by the Friends of ATN, and hosted by the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen.

As always, ATR has excellent professional research articles on clothing, textile, and related finds and research.  The subject matter of its articles ranges throughout history and prehistory and is worldwide in scope.  They consider themselves an "open source" journal and for years have made all of their back issues available, all the way back to ATN No. 1, here; just look at the left-hand side bar and select the link for "Download issue".  

But I'm writing about ATR again now because their latest issue has an amazing number of articles about Viking age textiles and/or clothing, and I thought that those of my readers interested in Viking age clothing would be interested in reading them.  Here is the list, complete with the page in the current ATR issue on which each article starts.  Judge for yourself.   All articles in ATR come with bibliographies that are a gold mine for further research.

Julia Hopkin.  Raincoats or riches? Contextualising vararfeldir through multi-perspective experiments. (Page 31)  The article describes the author's physical experiments involving making samples of different types of fabric, including vararfeldir, the shaggy "fake fur" exported by early Iceland, in an attempt to gain insight as to what qualities of vararfeldir made it valuable and desirable during the late Viking age.

Vedeler, Marianne. Golden textiles from Gokstad. (Page 47)  The author describes early textiles woven with precious metal thread, including two textiles found in the hollowed-out ridgepole of the burial chamber of the Gokstad Ship.

Jørgensen, Lise Bender, Moe, Dagfinn and Lukesova, Hana.  Viking Age textiles and tapestries: drawings by Miranda Bødtker. (Page 58)   Miranda Bødtker worked for many decades making technical drawings for botanists, zoologists and archaeologists at the Bergen Museum in Norway.  The article gives a brief account of her life (she passed away in 1996 at the age of 100!) along with excellent photographs of some of her drawings and of the textiles they depict.

Mannering, Ulla.  Fashioning the Viking Age: status after the first three years. (Page 138)  Parts one and two of this project were concluded in 2021, and the article summarizes the results.  They include full color photographs of two reconstructed outfits:  a man's outfit based upon the Bjerringhøj grave find, and a woman's outfit based upon the Hvilehøj grave find.  

For readers whose clothing interests predate the Viking age, the following articles may be of interest as well.

Nørgård, Anna.  Reconstructions revived:  a handweaver's personal perspective. (Page 90) A long, well-illustrated essay about well-known reconstructions of ancient Scandinavian clothing by a woman personally responsible for many of them.  With good photographic and sketch illustrations.

Grömer, Karina, Ungerechts, Silvia and Reschreiter, Hans.  Knowledge sharing:  a newly found 2,700-year-old tablet-woven band from Hallstatt, Austria.  (Page 115)  The article describes a newly-discovered tablet woven band, and provides a weaving diagram, in full color!  The band itself is depicted on the cover of Issue No. 63, and a color photograph of the reconstructed band appears in the article.  

Grömer, Karina, Saunderson, Kayleigh and Pomberger, Beate Maria.  Metallic idiophones 800 BCE to 800 CE in Central Europe:  their function and acoustic influence in daily life. (Page 129) "Metallic idiophones" are metal ornaments fastened to clothing that make noise by jingling, rattling, or clinking.  This article discusses some of them and discusses ways to discover how they sounded when worn.  Well-illustrated with color photographs, sketches, and graphs.

Enjoy!  

Friday, January 14, 2022

Historical Sew Monthly 2022!

It's a new year, and the Historical Sew Monthly marches on!

To be sure, I haven't done any costume projects for years, and still owe pictures for the last (small) one I completed.  Moreover, in November I started a new, part-time job with weekly time expectations.  

But I have not given up hope on actually doing costuming work again.  And I'm finding the new HSM Challenges inspiring.  The list is below:  I have cut and pasted it from The Dreamstress's blog; my comments on each appear in bold after the text for each challenge.

January: Anniversary Choice: It’s the 10th year of the HSM! Go back 10 years and choose any challenge from the 2013 HSF Challenge list, and make something for it! In 2013 we tried to do this fortnightly, so there are 26 options!  I still have many projects for which I have at least bought the materials, though I'm pretty sure I won't manage this by the end of January.

February: Neck & Shoulders: Make something to wear around your neck or on your shoulders.  There is my volva cloak, though to trim that completely may take me a while.  The lambskin hood is better; I started mocking up a pattern.  Perhaps I can finally nerve myself to save up for and buy the necessary materials....

March: Non-Woven. Make something not based on woven materials. There’s a whole world of possibilities. Braiding, carving, crocheting, felting, knitting, knotting, naalbinding…and…felting!  Felting has always interested me.  Perhaps a fez-like hat, to accompany an Assyrian outfit (see December reference below).  Or maybe start again to learn sprang by making a bag or a hood?  A sprang bag could fit under the challenge for March or April!  

April: Bags: Make a bag! Easy-peasy, if uninspiring.  If I had not made a Viking-style bag with wooden handles, that might have been an option.  I need to think about this one.  EDIT:  2/19/2022  I will make a small, drawstring bag, to hold a small polished bronze mirror, 1 and 9/16ths of an inch (4 cm) across. The Fairy Tales Chest on Etsy sells such mirrors, a replica of a find from Great Bulgaria during the right time period (8th-10th c. CE), and I've almost decided to get myself one as a birthday gift.  Sprang would be fun but I'll probably just sew a little bag instead; heaven knows I have enough scrap wool and linen lying about.  It will probably be a wool bag with a linen lining.

May: Protection: Create a garment that protects you from something: weather, dirt, wear, weapons, etc.  The volva's cloak, it haunts me....

June: At the Museum: Be inspired by the items and research available in museums and archives.  Need to think about this one.  Possibilities abound.  Perhaps my long-planned Kostrup-style apron dress?

July: Geometry: Make something with pattern pieces based on basic geometry, or that somehow incorporates geometric design elements.  I still have the white wool that was going to be the volva's tunic; maybe this is the year to get that done!  Like most pre-medieval and medieval garments, it's assembled from geometric shapes based on the measurements of the intended wearer.   EDIT:  2/19/2022  This should be simple enough to do, even if I sew it entirely by hand, as I plan to do.  

August: As Seen On Screen: Make something inspired by something you’ve seen on screen, whether it’s film, TV, or YouTube.  There are plenty of YouTubers demonstrating constructing of historical styles, many incorporating authentic techniques.  Need to think about this one too.  

September: Colour Challenge: Blue: Make something in any shade of blue.  My planned Vendel apron dress leaps to mind. The fabric for it is a deep blue, and making it will be simple; a line of sewing down the side, and at least a hem around top and bottom would do it.   EDIT:  2/19/2022  Also simple.  In fact, simpler than the volva's underdress; it would simply be a hemmed tube sewn closed along one long side.

October: A Perfect 10: It’s the HSM’s 10th anniversary, so make something 10 themed. 10th century, the something-10s, something that incorporates 10 of something? Be creative with it!  Perhaps revive a project that I've had pending since 2010?

November: Fitting: Make something that focuses on fit.  Socks?  Or the volva's hood?

December: New Era: Make something from a decade or century you’ve never made from before, or make something that represented a new era in fashion in its time.  I've been admiring Angela Costello's forays into ancient Assyrian costume.  Perhaps an Assyrian tunic? Wow.  That would be quite a leap! 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Sponged Wool and Hard Times

Recently, I learned about a kind of fabric called "sponged wool."  Sponging was, and is, a technique used to pre-shrink wool and give it a more luxurious texture.  It commanded premium prices because it can't be used on industrial-sized lengths of fabric; an explanation as to why can be found here.  

Sponged wool is still being made (check out this page for one such fabric being sold), but in the early years of the 20th century, it was particularly fashionable--and many European immigrants to the United States earned a steady, if low, income sponging wool.

This article talks about how early 20th century immigrants ended up in the sponged wool business.  In particular, it describes the career of one such immigrant, B.S. Moss, who went from working as a sponger to running his own wool sponging business and finally to making a successful career for himself in the budding motion picture industry.

This isn't the type of post I usually write, but I wanted one more post to go up here before we start the year 2022, in which I hope to devote more attention to learning about clothing history and making my own projects again.  Happy New Year!

Friday, November 19, 2021

And Then There Were Two....



Loyal readers will recall my posts about Zola, my wonderful orange cat who I lost to heart disease at the beginning of this year, and Empire, the cheerful black and brown tabby we adopted to fill the hole in our home (and hearts).

Then, in the summer, we learned that the adoption of Crispin, Empire's brother, had come unstuck and that Crispin needed a new home.  Would we take him?   When we learned that he had gone into rut (because his prior adopter never got him neutered) and was fighting intestinal parasites, we couldn't say no.  Especially when he was so nice to us despite his health problems. 

It wasn't easy at first, and he still has some issues, but Crispin is slowly coming to believe that we love him and that our home is now his forever home.  And, to the surprise of everyone but my husband, the boys apparently recognize each other as brothers.  Or, at least they have never been hostile to each other and now spend a lot of time playing together and hanging out together.  So it makes sense for me to show the two of them together.  

In the kitchen photograph, Crispin is the one on the floor.   In the other, he's the one facing the camera.  As always, click on the picture for a larger more detailed image.  I have taken better photographs of these two, but I couldn't resist the symbolism (bookends!) of the doorway shot.