Monday, 25 July 2011

The Cap of St. Birgitta - second version

I've never really worn the Birgitta cap I made three years ago. When it came to actually using it, I wasn't happy with it at all. Every time I was about to put on a medieval headdress I chose to just tie an all-purpose rectangular piece of cloth around my head and pin a veil to it rather than wearing my cap. Eventually I figured out that I would actually prefer a larger cap than the one I'd made. Something a bit more like the first mock-up I made the last time around, the one I had to scrunch up beyond recognition to compensate for my lack of Proper Hair. 

So I made a new one! I wore it this weekend for the (to my mind) exceptionally paltry Medieval Festival at Bohus fästning, Kungälv (the second link will take you to a slide show of images of Bohus Castle itself - if you put up with the slightly tacky photo montages at the beginning you'll get to see some really spectacular pictures!). The cap, as opposed to the event, was a success!

I still don't have enough hair to fill the cap, but it nevertheless felt a lot better to have that extra fabric to play around with. The problem with the first cap was that it threatened to slide off my head, and I certainly prefer a bit of scrunched-up fabric to having my headgear fall off.

I took the opportunity to explore the art of embroidery a bit further this time and worked a slightly improvised version of interlaced herringbone stitch to join the two halves of the cap. It does look a bit scruffy, but I think it'll even itself out eventually.

The Cap of St. Birgitta - second version
And here's me trying it on and taking a picture of myself without a tripod. My arm is coming off at the shoulder (the camera is heavy!), but I've almost achieved that sought-after pear-shape! Yes, there's an obvious amount of deflated fabric too, but it's all my own hair in there this time!

Going slightly pear-shaped?!

See the first post about the Cap of St. Birgitta, from 2008.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Work in Progress - The Dune Belt

I'm weaving again!

In my NESAT X article about the so-called Eric of Pomerania's Belt and the Dune Belt, I focused on the weaving technique and on the better preserved Eric of Pommerania's Belt. The fragmentary Dune Belt from Gotland mostly served as comparison, although it was actually because of it that I finally managed to figure out how the two belts were made and reconstruct the previously unknown tablet-weaving technique. Three years on, it's finally time for the Dune Belt to receive some long over-due attention. As it happens, this summer marks the 650-year anniversary of the Battle of Visby in 1361, when Danish king Valdemar invaded Gotland. The Dune treasure, in which the Dune Belt fragments were found, is believed to have been buried some time around the invasion.

On a side note: there will be a reenactment battle commemorating the events of 1361 on Gotland this summer: The Battle of Wisby. I will be there.

One of the Dune Belt fragments. Historiska Museet, Stockholm. Inv. No. 6849:68D.

It's difficult to say much about what the Dune belt originally looked like - no colours are preserved, as you can see in the image above, but the weave itself indicates some sort of diamond-shaped diagonal pattern. By focusing on the weave, I think it might be possible to get a better idea of how potential colours were distributed: changes in the pattern (the colours) result in changes in the acutal weave. So I've started weaving samples to see what kinds of colour changes will produce a weave that matches the fragments. So far I've made 5 samples, and I have a few more ideas to try out before going back to analyse the material and see what conclusions can be made (if any). The thread I'm using is Nm 60/2 spun silk, which is not quite right (the original is more like tightly twisted 320 denier filament silk, which I will get for the next set of samples), but it will do for now.

First sample. Loosely tensioned wefts, giving the weave an "Eric of Pomeriana"-look, rather than the tight "Dune"-look.
Second sample. Wefts pulled tighter, moving towards the "Dune"-look.
Third sample. Almost half the width of the first sample. Still not quite tight enough for the Dune Belt.

The pattern of the third sample really looks very nice! I like it a lot - imagine an entire belt dotted with those tiny diamonds!!! Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to match the fragments particularly well, but I won't rule it out completely until I get it under a microscope together with the original. I plan to put my results into a proper article when I'm done with all the samples and comparisons. In the meantime, the work-so-far will be exhibited during the huge weaving fair Väv 2011 in Borås, Sweden, this September (see this link for an English pdf-version of the programme)!

References and links: 

Holmqvist, V. "A Study of Two Medieval Silk Girdles: Eric of Pomerania's Belt and the Dune Belt", in  Andersson Strand, E. et al. NESAT X. Northern European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2010, 117-125.

An old post about weaving Eric of Pomerania's Belt:

Search the Collections, Historiska Museet (The Museum of National Antiquities):

The Battle of Wisby:

Väv 2011: Weaving Fair

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Crocheted Reticule with Silk Ribbons

from the Collections of the Textile Museum
(Borås, Sweden)

I continue my venture into modern times with another 19th-20th century textile: A crocheted reticule bag from the collections of Textilmuseet (the Textile Museum), where I work. 
 Reticule bag, front and back. Textilmuseet, inv. no: BM54958

Small, fancy purses like this one became fashionable towards the end of the 18th century, during the Regency era (and still survive today in the form of evening bags). They were popular DIY projects – early crochet books and ladies' magazines from the 19th century are full of instructions on how to make them. There are some claims that the word reticule comes from ”ridicule”, because these bags ”were considered a bit silly”. As far as I can tell, this is just a linguistic misconception. Reticule is derived from the Latin word reticulum, which means ”small net” or a ”small mesh bag”. The word ridicule is derived from a completely different Latin word. 

Silly or not, this particular reticule bag (inventory number BM54958) was donated to our museum in 1973, but it's from the turn of the last century or thereabouts. It's crocheted with an ecru-coloured cotton yarn and has red silk ribbons threaded into the crocheted piece. There are two small silk pom-poms attached to one side and it's closed with drawstring. The lining is a simple cotton satin fabric. 

 Close-up of the pom-poms

 Close-up of the lining, drawstring and the finishing edge (reverse side)

The yarn roughly matches the modern yarn size Nm 12/3, which is what I used for my reproduction bag, together with a 1.25 mm crochet hook. I was a little sloppy with the tension and had to add another pattern repeat to my bag to get the final proportions right. Other than that, I did everything like it was done on the original. On the later pieces, like the pouch for my mobile below, I managed the correct tension just fine without changing the hook.

When I had finished the crochet part of the bag, I went out to buy some silk ribbons. And found out just how difficult it is to get hold of satin ribbons made of real silk in Sweden today: it's basically impossible. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to materials, so I refused the only available alternative - polyester ribbons - and made my own out of a piece of silk fabric instead. Of course, my ribbons don't have have the selvedges of a band woven to the correct width; they are just flattened tubes with a seam running down the back, but they still look much nicer than cheap polyester. The ribbons on the original reticule are wider than the openings they're are threaded through, giving the bag a lively, slightly puffy look. I made mine narrower to get a perfect fit instead, since I didn't want them to twist and bulge and accidentally end up showing the seam...

 My own version of the reticule

I also made a little pouch for my mobile, with fulled wool instead of silk ribbons. The wool was sturdy enough on its own and it didn't need to be lined.

A pretty cover for an ugly phone
If anyone would like to make their own reticule bag, the Swedish pattern I made is sold in the museum shop for 35 SEK. For those of you who don't read Swedish, here's the English translation, for free:

Crocheted Reticule Bag, c. 1900 - Pattern

(I haven't test-crocheted the translated version, so if anything sounds strange or doesn't work like it's supposed to, please let me know!)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Couple of Excuses and An Early 20th Century Skirt

This past year hasn't been a particularly creative one, textile-wise. Or blog-wise for that matter. I simply haven't had the time or energy to create anything original or produce something worth posting about. The Slightly Insane Wool Project ground to a halt as I got more and more particular about the thread I spun. I went back to practising with pre-prepared, store-bought Shetland tops.

It wasn't until the Easter holidays last week that I actually started working with the wool I washed in the last post over a year ago! I practised longdraw drafting on my spinning wheel for two hours on Easter Monday and the result was...well, take a look at the lovely Ruth MacGregor spinning on YouTube and you'll know what my attempts did not look like... But at least I'm back in the game now, sort of.

So far, the things I've put on this blog have had something to do with medieval textiles/clothing, or the re-creation thereof. Lately, I've mostly done things like quite modern knitting and crocheting - very much for recreational purposes, but in the non-hyphenated sense of the word. Nothing even remotely traditional, medieval or even historical. And therefore, no posts.

But I've been thinking, why limit myself to medieval textiles? I work in a museum with huge modern textile collections (huge on a non-V&A-kind-of-scale. And modern in this case means post-1800), so most of my professional life is spent dealing with modern stuff.

Earlier this year, the museum received a dress from around 1880 which I got to register in the museum catalogue. It wasn't one of those fancy late 19th century silk dresses worn by the well-to-do, which museums are so fond of putting on display - it was a reasonably simple woollen dress. Fashionable and well-made, but simple. It piqued my interest. So rather than just adding it to the catalogue, I took the opportunity to measure it thoroughly and draft a pattern of it. The next step is of course to try to make one for myself (there I go again - re-creating...). My theoretical knowledge of drafting patterns for modern clothes (the 1800s qualifies as modern for me) is non-existant, so I have no idea if my pattern will work or if I will ever be able to adjust it to fit me. But I like a challenge. And I might even make a proper post about it later!

Anyway, working with the 19th century dress got me looking into more recent fashions, slowly dragging me out of the 14th century. Now I've read up on 17th - early 20th century clothing and tailoring techniques, immersed myself into the surprisingly fascinating world of the so-called "Västgötaknallarna"**, along with the early cottage industry and well-developed putting-out system for producing cloth in this region. And as a result of my new-found interest in post-medieval things, I made an amazing find at a second-hand shop about a month ago:

Front- and side-view 

An original early 20th century skirt! My guesstimate is that it's from around 1900-05, possibly a little earlier. As far as I can tell, it has never even been worn. The price was ridiculous: 105,00 SEK (that's less than 10 euros). And although it was made for someone a little thinner and shorter than me, I can actually wear it!

A turn-of-the-century wool moire!

It's made of a stunningly beautiful moire fabric of pure wool. It's really stiff and the reverse side is flat and shiny from the hot calendering that produced the moire pattern on the right side. The lower part of the skirt is lined with a rather coarse cotton cloth for protection and it's edged with a narrow woven band with a stiff fringe like a brush. I call these bands "dust-gatherers", but they probably have a proper name too.

Close-up of the "dust-gatherer". 
(if you know the proper name for this type of band, please let me know!)

The skirt is cut with a slight flare from the waist across the hips to a little below the knees, where the sewn-on lower part flares out a little more. It's made up of several pieces put together in a rather interesting way - you can see two of the seams running diagonally across the front if you take a closer look at the first photo.


The skirt is only a few centimetres longer in the back, so there is no train to speak of. Unfortunately, it didn't come with a jacket - I looked through the entire second-hand shop twice in the vain hope of finding one. So if I want to wear the skirt, I'll have to fake an Edwardian blouse to go along with it. I'm not sure I could bring myself to wear it, though; the museum curator in me sort of rebels against the idea of wearing a 100-year-old garment... I suppose I'll have to make a copy of this one as well. Yep. Re-creation as recreation. 

Ruth MacGregor's Homepage: 

**18th-19th century itinerant peddlars from the area around Borås where the museum I work in is situated. They travelled widely and were famous for selling locally made (and sometimes also illegally imported) fabrics.